The San Miguel Beermen refused to relish the role of favorites in the upcoming PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals series against TNT KaTropa given their recent history and the continuing mystery surrounding which import the latter will field in time for tomorrow’s opener at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It would be recalled that San Miguel’s journey to a third consecutive Philippine Cup title earlier this year was nearly derailed in that conference’s semifinals by TNT, which even took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series before the Beermen recovered by winning the last two games.
San Miguel and TNT are back for another playoff showdown, this time in the PBA’s grandest stage.
The Beermen, though, are anticipating anything the KaTropa may throw at them – even the likelihood of seeing a new import should the wide-bodied Joshua Smith remain hobbled by a foot injury.
“We’re both equally-talented and equally-strong,” said SMB coach Leo Austria. “I think yung experience lang ang difference, but I have a lot of respect to TNT dahil alam ko na malakas din ang team nila.”
Smith said in yesterday’s pre-finals press conference at the Sambokojin restaurant in Eastwood Libis that his foot has improved after two days of rest that followed TNT’s elimination of Ginebra in the semifinals, and even participated in practice prior to the said gathering.
But TNT has an import on standby in Mike Myers, thus adding the dilemma concerning San Miguel’s gameplan.
SMB, however, would rather focus on TNT’s local players than playing the guessing game.
“We’re in the dark as far as their import goes, but we’re just worried about ourselves, preparing and trying to get better as a team,” said San Miguel guard Chris Ross. “We’re four wins away from our goal, we’ll put it all out there to try to win.”
Everything will be clear until after 7 p.m. tonight – the deadline given to TNT should it decide to let Myers play instead of Smith. Under PBA rules, a team has until 24 hours before tipoff to inform the league of an import change.
It will be the fourth time that the flagship franchises of the San Miguel and Manny V. Pangilinan groups collide in the finals. This latest encounter would feature a juggernaut in the Beermen and a young but deep squad in the KaTropa.
A victory by San Miguel would not only solve Austria’s waterloo conference, but also move the Beermen within grasp of a grand slam.
Rookie coach Nash Racela has made the finals in only his second conference in the pro ranks, steering his team composed of a mixture of youngsters and veterans to its first finals since winning its last crown in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup.
“San Miguel is the barometer of the PBA, they’re the best team right now,” Racela said.
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