Austria sees dogfight in Game 4

ALEX Cabagnot of San Miguel Beer splits the defense of Greg Slaughter and Sol Mercado of Ginebra during Game 4 of their Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals series late Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. ROMAN PROSPERO

Game Today:
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 pm – San Miguel vs Ginebra

Reigning champion San Miguel Beer may already have its foot on the coveted title, but San Miguel Beer head coach Leo Austria knows that Ginebra has what it takes to stage a furious comeback.

Complacency is the last thing on the Beermen’s mind as they clash with the Kings in Game 4 of their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) best-of-seven championship showdown today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Game time is at 7 pm with the Beermen eyeing a 3-1 lead following an impressive 132-94 demolition of the Kings in Game 3 that put their title-retention campaign on the right track.

The 38-point victory is the biggest winning margin in PBA finals history that matches the 99-61 triumph of the Tim Cone-mentored Alaska squad over the San Miguel in the All-Filipino Cup in 1998.

Austria admitted that he didn’t see the lopsided win coming, but still thrilled with the kind of performance his wards displayed.

“Well, I was not expecting that,” said Austria, who is looking to lead the Beermen to their seventh title in seven finals appearances.

“It’s kind of weird. This is a championship game and we’re expecting a close fight.”
But Austria, the PBA Rookie of the Year in 1985, anticipates a major comeback by the league’s most popular team.

He said Game 4 would be a riot, especially with the Kings eager to avenge the setback that came at the heels of their 134-109 victory in Game 2.

“This is just one win. We’re up 2-1 and it’s still a long way to go. We need two more wins to defend this title,” he said.

For the Beermen to do that, Austria has to hand the keys of their offense to Chris Ross.

Ross, the scrappy Filipino-American playmaker, erupted for 23 points on seven triples to spark the Beermen’s firepower in Game 3, an explosion that could light a fire from under import Renaldo Balkman, June Mar Fajardo, Christian Standhardinger and Arwind Santos.

Austria said Ross may be a man on a mission, but after posting an impressive winning margin of 31.5 points in Games 1 and 3, he is wary that their over confidence could be a major issue entering the pivotal Game 4.

“I’m trying to let them know that this is just one game and overconfidence should not sink in our team. I hope it could serve as a morale-booster, instead,” he said.

On the other hand, import Justin Brownlee appeared to be fighting a lonely battle after single-handedly carrying the Kings with a forgettable 38-point performance in Game 3, which is a fitting follow up to his 42 and 29-point eruption in the first two games of the series.

Cone, the most celebrated mentor in league history with 20 titles, is aware that he will need more than Brownlee to bring down the vaunted Beermen dynasty.

He expects LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson, Greg Slaughter, Joe Devance and Japeth Aguilar to finally come together to help Brownlee in their bid for equalizer.

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