Austria looks to manage stars' minutes better as SMB seeks solo lead against struggling NLEX in Cagayan de Oro
Leo Austria says he just couldn't leave his stars on the bench when the game is on the line, so now he hopes the Beermen can take control of the game against NLEX early and allow the starters more time to rest. AP

SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria seeks to manage the minutes of his stars better as they gun for the solo lead in the PBA Philippine Cup, taking on NLEX later in the day in a road game at the Xavier University gym in Cagayan de Oro.

Coming off a tough 94-91 win over Mahindra in a game where June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos played over 38 minutes each, with Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter also breaching the 30-minute barrier, Austria aims to spread the playing time better to the rest of his players.

The reigning Coach of the Year wants to limit the usage particularly of Fajardo, the three-time reigning MVP who has averaged 36.8 minutes in his first four games, putting up 23.8 points on 68.3-percent shooting, 19.3 boards, 1.3 assists, and .8 block against five turnovers.

“As much as possible, I want to use a lot of players dahil I'm going to the playoffs,” Austria said ahead of the Petron Saturday Special at 5 p.m. “Mahirap para kila June Mar and sa star players namin na mag-average ng thirty-five minutes per game.”

“But the game was on the line (against Mahindra), so hindi ko na pwedeng gamitin muna yung bench namin. I cannot gamble,” he added as capable substitute big men Yancy de Ocampo and Jay-R Reyes played no more than four minutes apiece.

“But I know in the near future, they will help us a lot,” Austria said after the nail-biting win that  improved their win-loss record to 3-1, enabling them to gain a share of  the lead with Rain or Shine and GlobalPort.

The Beermen look like they have some luxury to turn more to their subs as they face a Road Warriors frontcourt that missed stalwart Asi Taulava in their 96-85 defeat at the hands of Blackwater last Wednesday due to migraines.


The Road Warriors, however, are eager to get out of a three-game tailspin and grab only their second win of the all-Filipino conference. 

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