The San Miguel Beermen did not have the dream start they were looking for in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup.
Coming off an unprecedented 5 straight All-Filipino Conference titles, the Beermen found themselves uncharacteristically vulnerable early on after the losses of five-time reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo and 2019 Commissioner’s Cup Finals MVP Terrence Romeo.
However, San Miguel pushed through as champions always do and finished the elimination round with a 7-4 record, still in contention for twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
This strong finish was made possible even though more veteran Beermen like Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross alternated time off due to their own injuries as well.
As such, head coach Leo Austria is just happy that they are where they are right now, as they get much-needed rest before the playoffs start.
“We’re so happy to get into the playoffs after a week of really thinking what will happen to us because we felt that our team was really struggling because of a lot of injuries,” he said. “But we’re so happy to make it to the quarterfinals. Let’s see.”
“This team, when it comes to the playoffs, they play differently – unless they feel something about their physical conditioning, that’s my main concern,” he continued. “But I’m sure once our PT gives them the go signal, I think they will give their 100% effort.”
Regardless of the condition Lassiter and Ross are in, Austria still enjoys the luxury of leaning on Alex Cabagnot, Mo Tautuaa, and the ageless Arwind Santos.
The 39-year-old Santos even finished with a game-high 23-points 11-rebound double-double in San Miguel’s 120-99 demolition of NorthPort to cap off an up-and-down elimination round run.
Younger spark plugs like Von Pessumal and Paul Zamar are also always ready to contribute whenever their numbers are called, which only shows just how deep San Miguel’s talent pool goes.
Despite these luxuries, Austria is still exercising caution moving forward, as San Miguel looks to fend off multiple contenders to the throne they have held for so long.
“What is important for us is the recovery,” he said. “We don’t know yet who will be the first game come Friday. But tomorrow, I think they just all need to rest.” – Rappler.com