IT’S no secret that the toughest game to play in a long series is always the close-out match.
That’s exactly the struggle that San Miguel will be facing when it looks to finish off TNT KaTropa in Game Six of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
While they know that it will be hard to finish off a grizzled team like the Ka-Tropa, the Beermen will be coming into the game relaxed but focused – as seen from their last practice at the Upper Deck Gym in Pasig on Saturday.
Instead of a tense atmosphere, the players looked at ease as they finished practice, laughing and sharing jokes while playing a friendly game of halfcourt heaves to end the day.
“After a won game, the aura of the players is high. This is the momentum that you want heading into a wrap-up game,” said Austria on the jovial mood in practice.
“The players are really aware of what’s happening and what situation we’re facing right now. Ang lahat sinasabi nila, if possible, matapos na bukas,” he added.
But Austria knows better than to expect anything short of a dogfight against the KaTropa especially after seeing them make the necessary adjustments in Game Four.
After going down 1-2, the KaTropa turned to a big lineup and attacked the Beermen's big men at will to level the series on Game Four.
Austria responded by fielding a small lineup in Game Five and letting Arwind Santos play alongside Charles Rhodes for most of the second half instead of June Mar Fajardo. The gamble paid off.
Austria is now bracing for more adjustments from TNT counterpart Nash Racela.
“I’m sure they will be adjusting regarding what we did last Wednesday. We’re very aware of what will happen. Makikita natin yan during the game. Babantayan namin yun. Meron din kaming pinaplano para sa kanila,” he said.
“It’s situational e. It’s a gamble, an experiment na maganda yung naging conclusion. During the game naging effective yun. Tomorrow is a different ball game, it depends on the situation kung ano gagawin,” he added.
At the end of the day, Austria will be coming in full of confidence in his players, knowing they've been to a lot of close-out games together and mostly got the job done.
“We’ve been to the last four championships, kaya hindi nawawala sa kanila yung composure. Very confident ako sa kanilang ginagawa. Nakita na nila yan e. We’ve been there. More or less alam na nila kung paano maglaro sa ganitong klaseng sitwasyon.”