TIM Cone explained his decision to bench most of his San Mig stars in the second half of a game against Rain or Shine on Monday night, saying he wanted to strike a balance between resting his starters for the PBA Governors Cup playoffs and trying to win the match.
Emerging from a one-and-a-half hour viewing and walk through with the team at the Ronac gym in San Juan on Tuesday, Cone explained that resting his stars was imperative, given the tight playoff schedule in store for a team seeking to complete a rare grand slam.
“If we go all out for the win (against Rain or Shine) and we lose it, then, we had to play the next day. So we’re trying to find a balance between trying to win the game and keep people rested,” Cone told Spin.ph.
Cone's move puzzled a lot of fans on Monday night, given that a win would have given San Mig an extra dayoff and a second seeding which would have lined it up for a quarterfinal match against Alaska.
The 94-95 loss to Rain or Shine, clinched by a last-second jumper from Arizona Reid, also bumped San Mig's sister team San Miguel Beer out of the Top 4.
Now the two SMC teams face off on Tuesday, with the Mixers holding twice-to-beat advantage.
Starters Marc Pingris, James Yap, Joe Devance, Peter June Simon and import Marqus Blakely played 25 minutes or less against Rain or Shine, allowing the second unit like Ian Sangalang, Allein Maliksi, Alex Mallari and Justin Melton to get the lion’s share of minutes along with newl boys Yousef Taha and Ronnie Matias.
Sangalang logged 30 minutes, finishing with 14 points and 15 rebounds, while the 26-year-old Taha had seven points, 12 rebounds and three assists in his first game in a San Mig uniform.
Cone, however, made it clear he was going for the win - not so much to draw a preferred opponent in the knockout rounds but to give his men an extra day's rest.
“In case we lost, there’s no guarantee we can win that game. We’re really playing not for the opponent (we will face in the quarterfinals), we were playing for the extra day’s rest, though we’re hoping to win so we can have the extra day, and not have back-to-back (games),” said the American mentor.
Cone said he decided to take the gamble, aware that the Beermen, despite being relegated to the No. 5 seeding, are no pushovers in the playoffs.
“I think a lot of people believe they (Beermen) are the most talented (team) in the league, especially their starting five is really, really strong,” noted the 56-year-old San Mig coach.
“We’re just fortunate to be in a twice-to-beat (advantage), but they’re thinking of winning one game, and we’re thinking about winning one game, so that’s what makes this quarterfinals so hard,” he added.