Grand Slam road for SMB turns rocky » Manila Bulletin Sports

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By Jonas Terrado

The road to the Grand Slam is getting even harder for the San Miguel Beermen after absorbing a tough loss to the NLEX Road Warriors over the weekend in the PBA Governors’ Cup, prompting some of their key players to ponder what’s wrong.

San Miguel saw a determined NLEX squad that pulled off a 101-97 victory when veteran Larry Fonacier hit two crucial three-pointers in the final two minutes. The loss dropped the Beermen’s record to 3-2, at presstime tied for sixth place with TNT KaTropa.

“I feel like we’re playing against ourselves,” Beermen guard Chris Ross said. “NLEX, they’ve gotten better, they’ve made some trades, but I feel like if we do some things better, we get healthier, we’ll get right there.”

The Beermen of coach Leo Austria are not only dealing with their in-game form, they’re also dealing with a health issues concerning June Mar Fajardo – forced to play limited minutes as he continues to recover from a strained right calf.

Fajardo’s absence has been severely felt, even with import Wendell McKines providing muscle inside the shaded lane. Still, Marcio Lassiter feels his absence in the crucial stretches of the game are missed.

“The past two conferences, we had June Mar. This time around, we don’t. So it’s an adjustment,” Lassiter said. “We got enough talent to beat teams and every one from the bench can compete with anybody.

“It’s just different for us right now. We’re not used to playing this type of lineup all the time, but we know we can compete at a high level so we just got to continue playing San Miguel ball and make sure that whoever’s out there, we’ll come out and play hard,” he added.

San Miguel surely needs to play even harder, considering its upcoming schedule.

The Beermen play the 0-6 Alaska Aces this Saturday in Angeles City, Pampanga. Though favored, they can’t afford to relax with the tricky situation of playing a team desperate to enter the win column.

Then they take on the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, winners of three straight, on Sept. 6 before tackling another team on a roll in Barangay Ginebra San Miguel four days later.

Matches with the Kia Picanto and Phoenix Fuel Masters – two bottom-feeding teams – follow suit before ending the elims against the playoff-bound Meralco Bolts.

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