FOR coach Leo Austria, Christian Standhardinger's relentless defense on TNT import Terrence Jones gave San Miguel the opening it needed to steal Game Five of the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals, 99-94, on Wednesday night.
"We knew we had the chance. But after watching them in the second half, I saw nothing happened so we needed somebody who could defend (Terrence) Jones and pressure him and that is Christian," he said.
Austria pulled Standhardinger from the bench at the 7:24 mark of the fourth quarter to spell June Mar Fajardo, and the sophomore bruiser made him look like a genius.
The top pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft bodied up on the Best Import awardee, hounding him from end to end and limiting Jones to just three points the rest of the way as he missed all four of his shots.
More costly were Jones' three turnovers, none more painful than his ballhandling miscue with 40 seconds remaining that paved the way for Chris McCullough's go-ahead bucket, 95-94, with 26.5 ticks left.
"Swerte na rin kami," sighed Austria. "Who could imagine that in a championship like this na makakahabol kami 16-points down against TNT?"
And the three-time PBA Coach of the Year only has Standhardinger to thank.
"That's why si Christian ang binunot ko. He's the only big man who could pressure Jones in the backcourt for him to give up the ball," he said, taking the time to applaud the 30-year-old banger for his sacrifices.
"Ever since naman, yun ang kanyang asset on our team, his defense. I know it's hard for him to just play this number of minutes, but if we do not have June Mar, he will surely get 40 minutes. But I'm just happy na he accepted the role."