SAN Miguel head coach Leo Austria finally got a taste of what it’s like to face a TNT squad with the mammoth presence of Josh Smith in the middle.
It’s something Austria knows he has to solve - soon.
Smith turned out to be one big headache for Austria despite playing on one good foot as the Ka-Tropa edged out the Beermen 104-102 in Game One of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Aside from hitting the game winner, Smith gave the San Miguel defense plenty of problems owing to his massive size and his ability to attract double teams in the post area.
Not even the presence of June Mar Fajardo - a hulking 6-10 big man in his own right – was enough to neutralize the former UCLA and Georgetown slotman.
Austria knows he has a big problem in his hands.
“We have to contain Smith. It seems like he is the problem in our defense,” said Austria after Smith finished with 21 points and nine rebounds in limited minutes. "If he’s not scoring, he’s opening things up for his guards – and it was pretty evident."
RR Pogoy had a career best 27 points on 5-9 shooting from the three point area, Jayson Castro went a rebound away from a triple double as he had 14 points and 10 assists while RR Garcia had his moments with 13 points off the bench.
"Napapaligiran sya ng perimeter shooters, napakarami ng perimeter shooters,” Austria said.
While TNT’s guards went amok, San Miguel’s usually deadly three-point shooting deserted the team which made just six of their 29 attempts from rainbow distance.
Marcio Lassiter missed all of his six shots, Ross missed all four of his shots from beyond the three-point line while Alex Cabagnot made just two of his eight attempts from the same distance.
“Medyo maasim. 6-for-29, 21-percent. That’s something na we have to consider during our practice tomorrow. I guess it’s because we cannot get the ball to our big man if we cannot hit from the three-point area,” said Austria.
The four-time PBA champion said he can't expect his two post players - Charles Rhodes and Fajardo - to get room to maneuver inside if his gunners are not clicking.
“We should concentrate on our post offense. We were winning because of our big men in the post and that’s the time where we’re able to get the ball to the perimeter,” Austria said.
“These two big men attract the double eh, it did not happen tonight eh.”