IF San Miguel Beer can overcome a 3-0 deficit in a title series, there’s little doubt it can conquer any other kind of adversity.
The Beermen, who pulled off the greatest comeback in postseason history with their conquest of Alaska in the last all-Filipino conference Finals, seek to climb out of a 2-1 hole when they face TNT KaTropa in Game Four of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After taking the series opener by 13 points, the Beermen lost the next two games, the latest a 98-92 setback on Sunday, marking the first time SMB lost twice in row since nearly a year ago - or last April in the semifinals of last Commissioner’s Cup against eventual champion Rain or Shine.
But the last three times the Beermen were down 2-1 in a best-of-seven series in the all-Filipino conference, they managed to turn things around and win the series.
So they’re in familiar territory.
“Sabi ko nga, kailangan nila kaming talunin ng dawalang beses pa para ma-eliminate, and zero-three nga naka-recover kami, so mataas naman yung kanilang nalalaman regarding sa ganitong sitwasyon,” SMB coach Leo Austria said ahead of the 7 p.m. matchup.
But he knows it’s easier said than done especially against a worthy adversary in the Texters, who are peaking at the right time.
“We have to bounce back hard or else we’re in deep trouble dahil three-one, mahirap na 'yun against Talk ‘N Text,” Austria said.
The champion coach insisted the Texters are an equally deep – or even deeper – team than the Beermen as TNT has been drawing significant contribution from young guns Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, and Mo Tautuaa.
Ranidel de Ocampo, Kelly Williams, and even Danny Seigle have also played well in the series, combining with Jayson Castro to form TNT's veteran core.
“Lagi nilang sinasabi na powerhouse kami, pero tingnan niyo yung lineup namin sa lineup nila; maybe sa First Five may advantage kami, but they could play up to twelve players na ‘di nagbabago yung outcome ng game nila,” Austria explained.
“Nasu-sustain nila kung anong binibigay ng first group nila. But syempre as a coach, pag bumaba yun (laro), you have to put back your starters.”
Banking on Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Arwind Santos, the Beermen were in the thick of things in Game Three despite June Mar Fajardo saddled with foul trouble and sitting on the bench at a crucial time in the payoff period.