Beermen remain hungry, unsatisfied despite 8-game winning run
MANILA, Philippines – The San Miguel Beermen have learned their lesson, and not even a lengthy winning streak can make them complacent.
After winning 8 games in a row in the 2015 PBA Governors’ Cup, this season’s Philippine Cup champions have no plans of slowing down as the playoffs draw near.
“Maaga lang namin nakuha yung magandang recipe, yung pang-laban ng San Miguel,” said team captain Arwind Santos, who doesn’t buy into the possibility that the Beermen could be peaking too soon.
“Binalik lang namin yung [laro] nung time na nag-champion kami. Kailangan itong darating na quarters, yung winning attitude namin mas nandoon.”
(We just hit our stride early, the winning recipe for San Miguel. We brought back who we were when we became champions. In the quarters, we must maintain our winning attitude.)
That intense desire to win was on full display Tuesday, June 16 against the lowly Blackwater Elite, whom they pounded 115-83. Though assured of a twice-to-beat edge already, San Miguel did not lift its foot from the gas pedal in a non-bearing game.
Import Arizona “AZ” Reid epitomized the Beermen’s insatiable hunger to keep on winning with his triple-double performance of 39 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
“No need to motivate them because they (players) want to play," said head coach Leo Austria. "Even AZ, he did not want to be pulled out from the game because he wanted to score.”
“I don’t ever wanna come out [of a game],” Reid confidently declared after the victory.
“I wanna win, I wanna destroy you. I don’t want to just beat you. If they had the same chance, they would want to destroy us.”
Reid poured 17 of his points in the fourth, effectively shutting out a Blackwater squad that came to within 10 points after being down by as much as 28 in the first half.
“My goal is to win each game by as much as possible. It’s nothing personal, that’s just how I am,” he added.
The Beermen learned a hard lesson in the Commissioner’s Cup when they played like the exact opposite of a champion team and missed the playoffs, finishing at 4-7 for 11th place. They never want to be that team again.
Reid, who has been with the team since February and also saw action in the Commissioner’s Cup, believes San Miguel’s streak is simply a product of constant hard work. He doesn’t put focus on the win streak, choosing to take it “one game at a time.”
“We’re just playing hard. I don’t look at it as an 8-game winning streak, I look at it as a one-game winning streak,” Reid said. “Next game is Alaska. I don’t care nothing about no 8-game winning streak. I wanna win that game.”
Austria, however, is not taking any chances as he expressed his concern over the so-called law of averages that could potentially catch up to them. To ensure consistency, he has been mentally conditioning the team every day.
“I keep on addressing them that we should keep on learning, we should keep on improving,” said Austria, whose squad goes into practice with plenty of positivity according to Santos.
“Kailangan ascending yung flight namin. Alam namin kami ngayon ang target (We have to keep rising. We know we’re the target). The good thing is our schedule is decent.”
The Beermen are sitting on top of the standings after recovering from a two-game slide to start this conference. Their last opponent for the eliminations will be Alaska on Saturday, June 20 in an out-of-town game in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.
Defense needs work
Amid many things going right for the Beermen, like having Reid average 27 points a game before Tuesday, there is always work to be done.
“Of course you wanna improve everything. You can never be satisfied,” Reid explained.
“When you’re satisfied, you get comfortable. When you’re comfortable, you lose so we’re not satisifed with nothing. Defense could be better, offense could be better. I can make more shots, I can make more assists and get more stops that I didn’t. There’s always room for improvement.”
Both Santos and Austria agreed an improved defense will aid them well in the playoffs.
In 10 games, the Beermen gave up an average of 94 points to their foes, which could easily be a winning score. In contrast, San Miguel is putting up 103 points each game. In this 8-game run, they’ve scored less than a hundred points only once – a 96-92 triumph over NLEX.
“I think defense is still lacking with us although we know what to do,” explained Austria. “Going into the quarterfinals, we cannot afford to give that kind of  points. We cannot rely solely on our offense.”
“Ang goal namin yung defense namin kahit madagadagan ng kaunti,” said Santos. (Our goal is to better our defense a little.)
After Saturday, the Beermen will have ample time for rest before the quarterfinals. The break will be utilized to strengthen players. Austria hopes it won’t impede the momentum they worked hard to establish.
“I hope the hunger of the players will still remain with them,” he said.
“I keep reminding them that we are capable of beating any time and we can still win a championship. This is our opportunity, so don’t let this opportunity slip away from us. Everybody is expecting a lot from us. It is a challenge to the team but we like this challenge because we’re here after all to compete and to win.” – Rappler.com