Austria says Beermen need perfect game plan in finals.
Coach Leo Austria and the rest of his staff will be hard-pressed to map out a near-perfect game plan as the San Miguel Beermen prepare against either TNT KaTropa or Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals which starts next week.
The Beermen were the first to advance to the grandest stage after surviving the Star Hotshots in a hard-fought semis series that ended Friday night with a 109-102 victory at the Mall of Asia Arena.
At presstime, SMB is playing the waiting game as TNT holds a 2-1 lead over Ginebra going into last night’s contest at the Cuneta Astrodome. If Ginebra wins, a deciding fifth game will be held tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
There are two reasons why Austria is wary of their would-be rival for the title.
The Beermen failed to beat both squads during the elimination round, losing 112-103 to TNT last May 5 and fell 107-99 to Ginebra 16 days later.
“They’re the only teams that beat us in the eliminations and I’m expecting a tough game against either team,” Austria said shortly after handing SMB its fifth finals appearance since he assumed the coaching role in 2014.
The thing that Austria and his team have to fix before Game 1 is to display their championship form on a consistent basis.
Against the Hotshots, the Beermen saw their double-digit leads disappear in Games 2 and 3, the latter almost costing them a victory.
Had not for Marcio Lassiter’s bank shot from three-point distance with one second left, San Miguel would have been down 2-1 after Wednesday’s Game 3. Instead, the Beermen pulled off an escape act, 111-110.
In Game 4, San Miguel had another comfortable lead, going up by 17 in the early stages of the fourth thanks primarily to guards Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross. But Star staged a last-ditch rally by pulling within three on two occasions with less than two minutes left.
Free throws and defensive stops later allowed the Beermen to take the life out of the Hotshots and secure the franchise’s 38th finals appearance and a shot at title No. 24.
“Everytime we’re leading by double figures in the fourth quarter, there’s a tendency to relax. In a playoff game like this you cannot afford that, what more in the finals where every possession is very important,” Austria said.
San Miguel heads to the finals carrying a slight advantage of having its top players in peak form. Cabagnot and Ross have raised their games higher while import Charles Rhodes and June Mar Fajardo may pose matchup problems in the paint.
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