Still wary, top seeds SMB, TNT shoot for 2-0 cushions
As impressed as he was with the way San Miguel Beer (SMB) took the opener of its PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series against Meralco, coach Leo Austria opted to keep a cautious approach.
“I hope the players are still hungry to get another win because the dangerous thing is that we won by a big margin and they could have a tendency to relax,” Austria said as the Beermen aim for a 2-0 lead in the 3 p.m. Friday affair at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Defending champion TNT, also winning big in the other semifinal opener last Wednesday, goes for a similar series advantage over Magnolia in the other match at 6 p.m.
The two Game 1s ended in double-digit outcomes with San Miguel pulling off a 121-97 victory and TNT rolling to a 108-96 triumph, taking advantage of the weary bodies of their respective foes.
“We were due to have a game without legs, and flat. And that game was today, just like Magnolia,” Meralco interim coach Luigi Trillo lamented after Game 1.
Meralco absorbed its worst loss since Trillo took on an acting capacity from coach Norman Black, understandably after the Bolts practically gave it their all in defeating long-time rival Barangay Ginebra in the quarters.
The way the Bolts managed to see off the Gin Kings has prompted Austria to warn the Beermen against complacency.
“The way they played against Ginebra was something that worried us before the start of the series. We all know how tough it was to beat Ginebra and Meralco was able to beat them,” the SMB mentor said.
“It just so happened that we were able to take advantage of the long break that we had and make proper preparations into Game 1,” added Austria.
CJ Perez, June Mar Fajardo and Rodney Brondial, who had a double-double in Game 1 with 20 points and 11 rebounds, are among the figures expected to step up for SMB while Chris Newsome and the Bolts seek to redeem themselves in hopes of putting the series on level terms.
Magnolia had no answer for Mikey Williams, whose 18 first half points helped TNT coast to victory. But the Hotshots could be poised to put up a defensive strategy that may at least limit the talented guard’s scoring prowess.
“They take a lot of pride in their defense, so we’re pretty sure they’re going to come up with something different the next time, and it’s upon us to be ready for it and to prepare ourselves for it,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes.