MANILA, Philippines – It's quite evident that defending champion San Miguel Beer is the most talented team in the PBA right now.
The focal point is reigning 3-time league MVP June Mar Fajardo, a 6-foot-10 behemoth who normally towers over his opponents in the paint. The Beermen have surrounded him with potent wingmen like Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Arwind Santos, and Chris Ross – all of whom can light up at any given moment.
So it was no surprise that TNT KaTropa struggled with picking who to contain in Game 1 of the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals, where San Miguel prevailed, 111-98.
"They came out firing on all cylinders, ang hirap because I think in the first half they made 12 3-pointers already. It's hard when you play a team like San Miguel," admitted TNT coach Nash Racela.
"It's difficult because you have to focus on June Mar and then guys start to make their 3-pointers. It's a bit hard for us."
The Beermen wound up shooting 16-of-26 from beyond the arc with 3 of its starters finishing with 20-plus points.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria described it best: "They're playing like an orchestra, they know what the others are supposed to be doing."
The first-year PBA coach, however, is determined to crack the code on San Miguel, which has lost only once so far this conference.
"I think we just want to focus on the positives. We made a lot of breakdowns defensively. We made a lot of mistakes but yet we stayed in the game. We were down 10, 12 points. We just couldn’t go over that hump," Racela said.
"We’ll find ways. It’s a series. I know it’s gonna be a long series so if one thing does not work then you look at another one. And hopefully you find the right scheme that would make stops," he added.
"Give credit to San Miguel because they really are a talented team. Mahirap piliin kung sino ang babantayan mo (It's hard to choose who you will defend). But we’ll find a way."
Game 2 of this series is on Friday, February 10. – Rappler.com