IT’S not the way champions are supposed to play that even the architect of San Miguel’s number of PBA championships the past few years was himself embarrassed with the way the team played in the opener of the Commissioner’s Cup finals against Barangay Ginebra.
“We’ve been humiliated by Ginebra,” admitted Leo Austria, resigned to the fact the Beermen were whipped by the Kings, 127-99, in Game One of their title series Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Austria isn’t about to take away the credit from the Kings, who he said came firing away against the defending champions without let-up and blew the game open early on.
He added the Kings’ prime target obviously was the Beermen’s major source of strength in June Mar Fajardo.
“They know who’s the main trust of our offense,” said the champion coach. “Prepared sila for June Mar.”
The 6-foot-11 Fajardo got his usual double-double production with 13 points and 12 rebounds, but was held from getting his usual touches to finish with just a 5-of-10 shooting from the floor.
Austria said the presence of 7-foot Greg Slaughter, the long-time rival of Fajardo, somehow gave Ginebra the body and inside presence to compete with the four-time MVP.
It didn’t help any, that San Miguel also failed to get mileage from its backcourt as Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross were held to a combined nine points on 3-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-8 from three-point range.
Top gunner Marcio Lassiter also struggled from the floor, shooting 1-of-8 from downtown and 2-of-13 overall to finish with six points.
Rookie Christian Standhardinger stepped up and took the cudgels for his teammates, registering a league career-best of 26 points and eight rebounds to complement import Renaldo Balkman (27 points and 13 boards).
For someone who had face adversity much worse than this, Austria thinks this is not the time to panic.
“Good thing this is a best-of-seven. Kung natalo kami ng 40 or 50 points, this is just one game,” he said. “We just have to move forward and adjust the next game.”
Game 2 is set Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.