SAN Miguel has established a dynasty of its own in the all-Filipino conferences for the past half-decade, but never has it been this vulnerable than in the ongoing 2019 PBA Philippine Cup.
And even coach Leo Austria would acknowledge that this is possibly the toughest road to the Philippine Cup title the Beermen has had over the last five seasons.
"Ito ang pinakamahirap because everybody are aware of what we're trying to achieve and everybody wants to stop that run," he said.
San Miguel is heading to the playoffs as the 5-seed, as it braces for a best-of-three quarterfinals clash against 4-seed TNT starting on Saturday.
Austria, though, believes that what's already done is done, and the Beermen are ready to take on all comers on their quest to achieve their goal of snaring a fifth straight title.
"We acknowledge that performance of ours because usually we're at one or two. But this time, we're at no. 5," he said. "But the good thing is that even though we're struggling at the start, we're able to make it and I think we're still fortunate that we still have the chance to defend the title. It's still up to us how we can handle this adversity.
Boding well for the Beermen has been their health, with injured players slowly coming back to the squad in time for the playoffs.
Alex Cabagnot (nose), Terrence Romeo (food poisoning), Christian Standhardinger (knee), and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser (shoulder) have all made their way back to the roster, equipping Austria with a fully healthy squad for this run to the championship.
"All of them wants to win, and I'm happy to see all of them want to help the team. I think they know the importance of this series," he said.
"I hope that the sense of urgency will prevail because of how tough of a conference it was for us."