Leo Austria finds encouragement as SMB 'small ball' nearly trumps full-strength Star
Leo Austria is not taking anything away from the Hotshots, who he considers as among SMB’s top threats to its grand slam bid. Jaime Campos

SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria still saw some encouraging signs as his team barely lost to Star, 104-98, even without June Mar Fajardo in their PBA Governors’ Cup matchup on Friday night.

The Beermen shifted to a perimeter-oriented, fast-paced attack in the absence of the injured Fajardo, the de facto ploy working in their favor at some points in the game where they came back from two double-digit deficits.

“I thought na without June Mar na kaya pa rin namin manalo eh, and it’s very obvious naman sa game na lumaban eh,” Austria said. “But kinapos ako sa rotation, because they were fielding three bigs, including the import.”

“The breaks were not on our side because meron kaming pagkakataon to tie the game, pero unfortunately, hindi pumasok (yung mga tira). That’s because of the defense of Star,” he added. “But I’m really proud of my team, because we’re able to recover.”

[See Star Hotshots weather endgame storm to deal Fajardo-less San Miguel a rare defeat]

SMB’s version of “small ball” also worked wonders in the latter part of last Commissioner’s Cup Finals where the Beermen won their last three games against TNT KaTropa even with Fajardo averaging just 5.7 points on five attempts, and 4.7 rebounds in 23 minutes in that span.

With Fajardo out against the Hotshots, the Beermen still kept the game close, although their errors hastened their downfall.

“Okay naman yun (small ball),” Austria said. “For me, we played well, except yung mga bad breaks dahil nagkakaroon ng mga lapses, turnovers. Usually pag less ang turnover namin, nakaka-execute kami ng maganda eh.”

Still, Austria is not taking anything away from the Hotshots, who he considers as among SMB’s top threats to its grand slam bid.

[See Rodney Brondial pounces on Fajardo absence to provide quality minutes for Star]

“Ever since naman eh, kino-consider ko sila as a contender,” Austria said. “The last two conferences, they’re in the Final Four. Definitely shoo-in ito sa Top Four dahil they keep on improving, then their import is helping them well, dahil if not for his three-point shot, maybe baka tinalo pa rin namin.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos