MANILA, Philippines － Fresh from a 94-85 victory against sister team Ginebra, San Miguel head coach Leo Austria addressed the media at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum on Friday night with a somewhat relieved expression on his face. The defending champs managed to stretch the lead by as much as 26 in the opening minutes of the second half. Their own eyes, however, witnessed how their foes’ erased the comfortable double-digit cushion and closed to within striking distance as Game 4 was about to wrap up.
Joe Devance, whom Austria cited as the best player of the match, posted a game-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting and undeniably became the spark in Ginebra’s fourth quarter comeback. The Beermen’s shotcaller meanwhile credited his team’s hot start, which provided them the foundation to pull away with a 3-1 Finals lead.
On a light note, he said after the game: “I hope na matapos na ‘to dahil everybody’s really tired.” (I hope the series will end soon because everybody’s really tired.)
But Austria knows the Beermen have to put in the work to turn his wishful thinking into reality, as they have been on the other side of the coin a year ago when they clinched the Philippine Cup title after being down by 3 games.
“0-3 nga kami before eh. But this time, we’re facing a great coach, a top team supported by a large crowd,” he noted. “So anything could happen.”
With his team on the brink of losing the series, Jayjay Helterbrand remains optimistic that Ginebra has what it takes to climb out of the 3-1 hole. The first step, according to head coach Tim Cone, is to shrug off the loss and instead look forward to Sunday’s game at the Big Dome.
“Basically, Coach [Cone] just said [to] forget about it, move on, there’s nothing we could now,” said the veteran guard. “We gotta put that aside and focus on Sunday.”
Helterbrand likewise pointed out that a key to a victory in their next match is to overcome a slow start- something the Beermen capitalized on in Game 4.
“[The key is] just to go all-out, start the game on fire, and try to maintain it for 48 minutes.”
Asked if Ginebra can pull off a run like the Cleveland Cavaliers did in last year’s NBA Finals, Helterbrand broke into a smile and said, “Yeah, that’s the idea.”
“We’re better, we’re more focused when our backs are against the wall. It’s a never say die game. I think we work better that way as a team. For some reason, do-or-die.” － Rappler.com
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