AZ Reid laughed and fooled around with his teammates in between offensive plays that they were fine-tuning during San Miguel Beer practice on Tuesday morning at Acropolis Gym in Quezon City.
The SMB import looked pressure-free for good reason as the Beermen have a 2-0 lead in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals against Alaska and are two wins away from the crown.
But Reid’s demeanor didn’t mean he and the Beermen are relaxed or have lowered their guard on the eve of Game Three on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“There’s always pressure,” Reid said in a short chat with Spin.ph before he made his way out of the training venue. “We want to win every game. We lose a game, there’s pressure. We win it, we’re fine.”
After all, the Beermen have a chance to put the Aces in a 3-0 hole that no team in a race-to-four-wins series has ever climbed out of with a victory in the crucial encounter that tips off at 7 p.m.
“Game Three might be a turning point for our success or failure,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “Kung matatalo kami, it creates some momentum para sa kanila. Kung mananalo kami, it will demoralize our opponent. We have to treat every game as our last game.”
But Austria wants his wards to strike a balance between avoiding pressure and maintaining focus at the same time in their bid to capture a second championship this season.
“We’re trying to keep that kind of mood among the players dahil ayaw namin ng pressure, but I keep on telling them don’t celebrate and no complacency.”
For Arwind Santos, the mood at SMB practice is a sign of the Beermen’s cohesion - a world removed from the 'Petronovela' days that had seen the team underachieve for years amid rumors of internal wranglings.
“Sign siya ng confidence tapos ng bonding tapos yung pagiging buo talaga namin,” said the SMB star. “Kaya masaya kami. Ang ganda tingnan. Dun pumapasok yung pagiging comfortable ng bawat isa.”
The former league MVP's statements emphasized the obvious - the Beermen are in a good place these days.
“Alam naman namin na babawi ang Alaska, pero hindi mo makikita sa amin (na may pressure),” he added. “Nandun sa sarili namin na maghahanda kami — pero dahil sa saya namin, parang hindi kami naghahanda eh.”
“Kung baga, ‘yun yung nakikita kong weapon namin na pag ganito yung team, mahirap kaming talunin.”
Austria and the rest of his squad refined some offensive sets that have been working for them and the Aces have had a hard time to solve.
“We will react kung ano man yung gagawin nila,” Austria said. “Our offense always depends on their defense and our defense depends on their offense.”
“Chess game na ‘to na titingnan mo kung anong moves ang gagawin,” Austria added, confident his wards can execute their game plan well.
“Relax lang ako sa kanila and if something happened during the game, that’s only the time na kailangan ako pumasok at paalalahanan sila.”