SAN Miguel Beer and Ginebra San Miguel — two teams that fought in the finals of the last Philippine Cup — take on separate cellar-dwelling opponents today in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Beermen gun for their fourth straight win that will enable them to keep the top spot as they play Mahindra in the curtain-raiser at 4:15 p.m. at the Cuneta Astrodome, while the Gin Kings clash with NLEX in the main offering at 7 p.m.
The Beermen are on a roll with three straight victories and are the only unbeaten team in the midseason conference, which ironically, is the only tournament they missed winning during the 2015 season.
There is no doubt SMB’s status doesn’t give coach Leo Austria much comfort, believing every team would now be after beating them. Add to that the fact that they are up against a team that is greatly motivated if only to avoid getting stranded at the bottom.
“We cannot relax against them,” said Austria after presiding over the team’s light workout yesterday.
“They practically have nothing to lose and everything to gain kaya hindi p’wedeng magpabaya sa laro namin bukas (today),” added Austria.
The SMB bench tactician was of course referring to the Floodbusters who have been hogging the cellar, along with three other teams, after winning just one of their six outings.
Although he has a real hard-working import in Charles Rhodes and a host of able locals, Austria remains wary of what awaits SMB as the tournament progresses.
Against Mahindra, Austria doesn’t see any reason to relax.
“Like in their last two games, which are very close, their hustle, relentless defense ang key para sa kanila. Sigurado they will do everything para ma-disrupt flow namin,” said Austria.
The Beermen capped their streak with a 103-97 win last Sunday over Star in a game where Rhodes tallied a career-high 29 points. In that game, June Mar Fajardo was limited to just 10 points but got 11 boards.
With only Keith Wright, Jason Ballesteros and Prince Caperal as natural centers, Mahindra may indeed prove to be at a big disadvantage up front.
But the likes of Jason Deutchmann, new acquisition Jackson Corpuz and veteran Mark Yee can provide frontline help along with Alex Mallari and LA Revilla from the weak side.
The Gin Kings are similarly in the same situation as the Beermen because they are playing coach Yeng Guiao’s Road Warriors who, Ginebra coach Tim Cone warned, are just as dangerous as any other team.
“NLEX is incredibly scary. They’ve yet to win a game, but they have been in every game they have played, including leading TNT by 29 points,” said Cone.
It can be recalled that the Road Warriors led the Tropang Texters by as many as 29 points, but sputtered in the fourth quarter and allowed the latter to extend the game in overtime where they totally lost their touch altogether.