MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel had repeatedly defied the odds in winning 7 of the last 13 PBA championships, but coach Leo Austria has an inkling its upcoming title quest against TNT will be the hardest to date.
Austria said the Beermen will have their work cut out for them in a best-of-seven duel versus the KaTropa, who reached the finals by eliminating none other than reigning Commissioner's Cup titlist Barangay Ginebra.
"If this will be a short series, I hope we get lucky. But if we win, I'd like it to be short. If this goes long and we win, I'd prefer that too," said Austria after San Miguel dispatched Rain or Shine in 4 semifinals games on Friday, August 2.
"But I'm telling you, this will be the toughest championship for us."
A cause of concern for the Beermen is KaTropa import Terrence Jones, who has taken the league by storm and has collected a whopping 5 triple-doubles through 17 games in the conference.
"You cannot contain him all the way because he knows how to pass. He knows how to score. He could be a decoy and that's what he does," Austria said.
"They are not 10-1 in the eliminations if not for a powerhouse team [and] Terrence Jones."
Austria knows Jones will not just be their only problem defensively, especially with TNT locals hungry to get payback for the many times San Miguel broke their hearts in the playoffs.
The KaTropa had lost to the Beermen in the last 6 times they faced each other in the playoffs – the most notable defeat coming in their Commissioner's Cup finals clash two years ago.
"I think the local players of TNT embraced what kind of game he (Jones) has to offer with the team. We see that they have a different bond and it seems everybody is on the same page."
San Miguel has only a day to rest before it locks horns with TNT in Game 1 at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, August 4.
"It's really hard because we don't have ample time to prepare for this game but I'm banking on the experience of the team," Austria said. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.