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Locals, not Wells, key for SMB

Playing but not competing.

Coach Leo Austria said this was the main reason for the sudden loss of form by his San Miguel Beermen after a rare sizzling start in their second bid for a PBA title Grand Slam since their semifinal debacle against eventual Governors’ Cup champion Barangay Ginebra in 2016.

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Looking like a sure bet for one of the top four quarterfinal slots by going 4-0 after their 2019 Commissioner’s Cup triumph in August, the Beermen suddenly lost their deadly poise and tumbled thrice in their next four games of the 2019 edition of the Governors’ Cup.

The unexpected turnaround came even as SMB’s import Dez Wells emerged as the deadliest reinforcement of the league with a tournament best 56 points and a 37.1-shooting average in eight games so far.

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All’s not well for SMB with Austria blaming his locals for their failure to provide solid support for Wells, who also had 52 points when Ginebra ended the Beermen’s winning streak on Oct. 13.

“He cannot do it alone,” said Austria, adding that the locals have become too reliant on Wells that they have practically resorted to just going through the motions of playing rather than competing for a win.

But the easy-going days for the Beermen seemed over following the sprain on the left ankle that sidelined Wells in the second half of SMB’s 125-99 loss to Meralco last week. Despite the injury midway in the second quarter, Wells returned to finish the period with 18 points.

With Wells expected to be less than 100 percent against Blackwater this Wednesday, the Beermen need to rely again on their superior local lineup to boost their drive for a twice-to-beat bonus as a top four quarterfinalist.

SMB takes on Rain or Shine this Saturday in Cebu before winding up its elimination schedule on Nov. 20 against the TNT KaTropa, who share the lead at 7-1 with the NLEX Road Warriors.

Tied for third at 5-2, Meralco and Ginebra were playing at press time with the loser falling into a deadlock with SMB. Still in contention for a Top 4 slot are defending champion Magnolia (4-4), Columbian Dyip (4-5) and NorthPort (3-4).

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