SMART Clark Giga City - San Miguel Beer is back in the war room, needing to re-strategize to defend its all-Filipino dynasty seriously threatened by a determined, hungry foe.
A Meralco side relentless in applying a lockdown defense and now pumped up by its 78-71 win Friday is a big, big concern.
And there's a major concern from within.
The Beermen are suffering from a lack of personnel with an injury-hit lineup worsened by the sidelining of Alex Cabagnot Friday.
The bubble grind may have taken its toll on SMB that it looked a spent force in the playoffs opener.
June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo are out, and Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross are playing injured.
"My concern is the condition of the players. We're not healthy. So we want to manage their condition," said SMB coach Leo Austria.
The Beermen, with their champs heart, must definitely show up in the Sunday knockout at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena if they're to stay on track in their six-peat bid.
Game time is at 6:45 p.m. with the Bolts likely to press on and charge on, waging their cause in their first all-Filipino playoffs in five years.
In this stage of the gut-wrenching, energy-zapping, real-punishing bubble rumble, coach Norman Black feels the best weapon is defense.
"I've noticed the shooting of the teams are starting to go down a little bit, maybe from playing every other day so you have to focus on defense if you want to win," said Black.
And they intend to do that especially if Raymond Almazan can't return from the mishap that limited him to just two minutes of action Friday.
With their 6-foot-7 center riding the bench, the Bolts stuck together and got half of the job done as the fifth seeds needing to win two in a row to make the next round.
They're now on an even keel.
"Of course it's a confidence-booster but we told ourselves this is only halftime, we only won one game and we haven't done anything yet. We have to get the next one," said Aaron Black, a rookie making a big impact in his first PBA playoffs. (SB)