MANILA, Philippines - “I really don’t know what happened.”
Those were among the first few words spoken by San Miguel head coach Leo Austria Friday night after the Beermen locked in a 1-0 lead at the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
The defending champions connected on 53% shooting from the field, hit 10 triples, and set up a 21-point cushion at the half that allowed them to cruise to a comfortable victory against Ginebra.
With a commanding 109-82 win, the three-peat seeking Beermen looked in good shape to commence the Finals series as they also managed to momentarily silence the spirited crowd of the Gin Kings at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, February 24.
Austria knows, however, that drawing first blood against Tim Cone and a team that “never says die” can only do so much.
“Game 1 is not assurance that you will win the series,” noted Austria. “But it gave us a psychological advantage and momentum.
Often criticized for letting his starters play extended minutes, Austria witnessed a balanced offensive distribution with 5 players scoring in double digits, as well as a more efficient bench production to combat Ginebra’s deeper rotation.
Even as his team started to pull away with a huge margin, Austria believed there was still no room for complacency as the Gin Kings might already be brewing something up for Game 2 on Sunday.
“This is just the first game. Whether we beat them by 30 or 40 or one point, it is just one game,” he shared. “Kapag wala ng challenge ‘yung game, ibibigay na ‘yan. Nasa second game plan na siya [Cone].”
(If the challenge is no longer there, they’ll give the game to us. [Coach Tim] is already on his second game plan.)
“If I were the coach of the losing team, I will push hard for us to get back. Coach Tim is a great coach, he knows what kind of situation he is facing now.”
Game 2 of this Finals rivalry will take place at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City on Sunday, February 26. Austria, who hails from Sariaya in the same province, commends the league for holding an out-of-town game near his home yet expects nothing but business.
“Quezon is Ginebra country eh, but maybe, makakakuha kami ng 1/4 ng fans. But if we played like we played tonight, I think mapapatahimik namin ‘yung crowd. They’ll be cheering for us.”
(Quezon is Ginebra country, but maybe we’ll get 1/4 of the fans. But if we played like we played tonight, I think we can silence the crowd. They’ll be cheering for us.) －Rappler.com