LEO Austria is wary of San Miguel Beer’s tendency to lose its discipline when holding a big lead in a game.
That’s certainly a no-no especially against a team as talented and dangerous as TnT Katropa. And going to Game 1 of the best-of-seven PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals, it’s a major concern the San Miguel coach wants to address.
“Every time we’re leading by double figures, there’s a tendency to relax,” noted Austria.
The issue was none more obvious than during the semifinals series against the Star Hotshots. Thrice in the four games in the best-of-five affair, the Beermen lost grip of double digit leads, including a 17-point spread in the series clinching win by San Miguel, 109-102.
“In the playoffs, you can’t afford to be like that,” Austria pointed out. “What more in the finals, where every possession is very important.”
Also not lost on Austria is the fact the Texters beat them in their only meeting this conference, 112-103, at a time when TnT still had Dontay Green as import and gunner Larry Fonacier was yet to be traded.
Gilas stalwarts Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy, and Troy Rosario also didn’t suit up for the Texters during the May 5 encounter, but so did June Mar Fajardo on the part of the Beermen.
But the Texters did some crucial moves heading to the playoffs. They gave Green the pink slip for massive replacement Josh Smith, and then traded Fonacier to NLEx in a deal that brought to them Anthony Semerad, who proved to be a key part of coach Nash Racela’s rotation in the playoff win over top seed Barangay Ginebra in the semis.
Austria is impressed by the way the young Racela has managed to mold the Texters back into one cohesive unit despite being at the helm of the team in just two full conferences.
“The young coaches are getting better and better. Sumusunod lang ako sa kanila, nag-a-adjust ako,” said the two-time PBA Press Corps Coach of the Year, who is eyeing his fifth championship with the SMB franchise.
Ultimately, Austria still believes everything boils down to how the players will execute their plays.
“I always depend on my players because they know how to win a championship,” said of his team, the core of which already won four titles together, including three straight Philippine Cup crowns.
“And for me, nakikita ko ayaw nilang ibigay yung feeling ng nananalo ng championship.”