Defending champs a win away from another Finals stint; Gin Kings eye similar 2-0 edge vs Painters
San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria heaped praises on the Alaska coaching staff minutes after taking a 2-0 lead in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-five semifinal series on Monday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
And even if they are just another win away from a sweep and a title series berth after their 105-94 victory, Austria and his Beermen are not thinking of the Finals yet.
In fact, Austria feels strongly that their title-retention bid will find them crossing paths with sister team Barangay Ginebra.
“I have to admire the tenacity of their coaching staff,” Austria said in paying tribute to counterpart Alex Compton and his crew. “They made us work hard in the first half and they did everything they could just to overcome [our edge in manpower]. You saw that they were all out.”
Alaska led by as many as 16 in the first half, only for San Miguel’s superstar-laden core to hit its stride from the third period on and make the final score look like it was another cakewalk for the Beermen just like their 92-79 Game 1 win.
Austria said he appreciates the effort his foes are coming up with, considering that they are facing the consensus team-to-beat.
“Everyone is saying that we are a super team and yet they (Aces) keep fighting back,” Austria said. “Maybe because of the superior talent that we have, that’s what’s prevailing.”
He then went on: “Come the championship, it will be a different story. We’re not thinking of it (title series). But I think it will be a good series against [Barangay] Ginebra. They beefed up with the addition of Jeff Chan to break our zone defense.”
Ginebra leads Rain or Shine, 1-0, going into Tuesday’s 7 p.m. contest also at the Big Dome.
Austria and the Beermen try to apply the broom Wednesday against an Alaska crew that has tossed in everything only to come up short yet again.
Chris Banchero had to leave the team and hurry back to the United States because of a family emergency while Calvin Abueva is serving an indefinite suspension.
SMB import Renaldo Balkman had 31 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 14 of his total in the third period. June Mar Fajardo had 21 and Chris Ross 16, counting three straight triples in the middle of the third that touched off the San Miguel rally.