ANTIPOLO CITY – It was Leo Austria’s own version of ‘one step backward, two steps forward.’
The San Miguel coach deemed it best to give Renaldo Balkman a well-deserved rest in the fourth quarter of Game Three of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, never to send back the talented import again in the Beermen’s 125-104 loss to the Alaska Aces Friday night at the Ynares Center here.
With the Aces protecting a 94-77 lead at the end of the third, Austria recalled Balkman to the bench to start the payoff period, and was looking to field him back should the Beermen managed to cut the deficit to manageable level.
The reigning champion failed to do it as Alaska even stretched the lead to its biggest at 106-83, prompting the San Miguel mentor to sit the import down for good.
Balkman still topscored for the Beermen with 28 points (11-of-17 from the floor), 11 rebounds and three assists, but committed seven turnovers – the most for the team.
“We were down by 20 points and he needs to rest. We will see kung ano mangyayari noon kung makakabalik kami at mag single digit yung lamang (ng Alaska), probably babalik siya,” said Austria as he justified his decision to sit the 34-year-old Puerto Rican for the entire fourth quarter.
Balkman played a total of 31 minutes after averaging close to 42 minutes prior to the game.
He added: “He needs rest that time. For you to comeback it requires a lot of energy. We’re trying to avoid that something might happen, mamaya kaka puwersa niya ma-injured pa siya.
“So I think that was the right thing to do for him,” said the San Miguel mentor. “And siyempre we have to think of the next game.”
Austria said there was no need to ponder about the team’s 21-point blowout that it didn’t take long for him to deliver his post-game talk inside the San Miguel dugout.
“Dinis-miss namin sila agad after just 10 minutes because I want them to have a good rest dahil yung next game is a very important one,” said Austria, referring to Game 4 on Sunday.
Besides, he believed the Beermen came out flat against the Aces this time.
“In terms of energy, wala kaming energy kanina,” he stressed. “On our part we did not play our game, outhustled kami and outplayed.
The champion coach pointed out to the 25 points off turnovers scored by the Aces compared to the nine of the Beermen, and the 33 second chance points of the opposition as against the 16 of his team.
Alaska also had 103 field goal attempts while San Miguel only had 82.
“We will try to watch what happened tonight and I hope we come up with full of energy in the next game,” said Austria. “Energy-wise, wala talaga kaming energy kanina.”