AS San Mig inched closer to a grand slam, Johnny Abarrientos said he felt more nervous watching from the Mixers bench than when he was the star of an Alaska team that completed the 'triple crown' 18 years ago.
"Mas may nerbiyos ako ngayon kapag nasa bench lang ako ngayon kasi unang una, wala ako magawa but just to remind them (Mixers),” Abarrientos said after San Mig held off Rain or Shine, 78-69, to grab a 2-1 lead in the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
“The more naririnig mo ang grand slam, it adds more pressure kasi the more you get closer, the road becomes tougher,” he added. “Ito ang game na pinakamahirap, yung i-close.”
With San Mig holding a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five title series and just a win away from only the fifth grand slam in league history, Abarrientos expects the pressure to mount in Game Four on Monday when fans expect the Mixers to fulfill their date with destiny.
Speaking from experience, the soft-spoken PBA legend said the Mixers will have to enter Game Four with a win-at-all-cost mentality.
“We need to play possession by possession. At gusto kong i-mention, this (Game Four) is our knockout game, na if we lose this game, we’re done. Kaya dapat ganun ang mindset,” he said.
Although San Mig is oozing with talent and championship experience, Abarrientos said San Mig can't afford to let its guard down against Rain or Shine on Monday.
“We’re a team that grinds it out every single possession. So kapag binigyan mo kami ng chance na dikit ang game, malaki ang chance namin. Pero kapag down the stretch lumayo sila (Elasto Painters) sa amin, yun na, may feeling na magku-quit na all of a sudden,” he said.
“Yung parang, 'Let's go to the next game kasi we have a one-game margin naman.' So yun ang problema, it’s hard to close the game in this kind of a situation. Sana, for us this (Game Four) is our last game.”
Abarrientos also hopes that every San Mig player realizes the legacy they are on the cusp of establishing.
“Sana maintindihan nila (Mixers) yung what’s at stake, kasi parang after 18 years na, para mauulit so I was telling them, try to put your name in history,” said Abarrientos, the MVP of the Alaska grand slam season in 1996.
“When you look back and look at the (PBA) annual, dun mo makikita yung pinaghirapan mo eh. Yung mayroon kang iniwan na legacy, kasi yun ang sinabi ko, especially sa mga guards, na hanggang ngayon, kapag narinig mo, ang sarap ng feeling kasi may tinanim ka,” he added.