Game 1 of PH Cup Finals an important one to win, as this ‘could lead to a trend’
Coach Leo Austria knows from bitter experience that winning the opening game of a championship series may set the tone of San Miguel Beer’s chances of getting the ultimate outcome against TNT.
“It’s very important to win Game 1 of the series, because it could lead to a trend,” Austria said as he recalled the last playoff clash between the corporate flagships that took place just a year ago. And with the PBA Philippine Cup title to be disputed in a seven-game series both coaches see would likely go the distance, Austria doesn’t want a repeat of what happened in last year’s Final Four where the Tropang Giga took Game 1 and won all the odd-numbered games, counting the all-important Game 7.
‘Not just June Mar’
The series-opener that Austria sees is very important tips off at 6 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum, and Tropang Giga counterpart Chot Reyes would also obviously want to win this one as he is scheduled to miss Games 2 and 3 to answer the call of country and coach Gilas Pilipinas in two Fiba Qualifying window games.
June Mar Fajardo, the six-time MVP, is back to his dominant self, but Reyes believes that stopping the 6-foot-10 San Miguel cornerstone alone would not get the job done.
“San Miguel is not just June Mar [Fajardo],” said Reyes. “The strength of San Miguel is their depth.”
Reyes knows what he is talking about, coming from his own bitter experience of late.
“You cannot just focus on June Mar because the other players in the perimeter will kill you or torch you. And then, there’s [San Miguel big men] Rodney Brondial, Vic Manuel and Mo Tautuaa, and you can see the magnitude of our problem.”
That front line is certainly fearsome and is expected to provide plenty of trouble for TNT counterparts Poy Erram, Troy Rosario and the veteran Kelly Williams.
Then, there’s CJ Perez, Jericho Cruz, Simon Enciso and multiple-championship winners Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross, who’ll try to work together and make it tough for Mikey Williams, Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy and Glenn Khobuntin.
San Miguel destroyed TNT in their only elimination round meeting last July 7, 115-99, as Cruz scored 30 points like Fajardo and a total of five players finished in twin digits.
But Austria doesn’t see the Tropang Giga at a disadvantage, given their ability to maximize what they have under Reyes’ stewardship.
“TNT is a well-oiled machine, very cohesive, they know each other and are very comfortable playing with each other. And those are the things that we have to consider,” the San Miguel mentor said.
“But we don’t know yet what will happen come Sunday’s game onwards, it depends on how hungry the players are in this championship series,” added Austria.
Even if they have expressed their apprehensions about the other squad, the two teams also believe that the goal is achievable.
“I have great faith in my team,” Reyes said, likely the same sentiment shared by Austria. “The team that we have doesn’t quit, they fight till the end. And with that, I’m confident, and hopefully we can continue fighting.”
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