Jun 12, 2018

Leo Austria has reason to worry as San Miguel battles GlobalPort

AFTER starting off the PBA Commissioner's Cup on the wrong foot, San Miguel Beer has set a modest target for itself.

Following a three-game winning run, the Beermen's immediate goal remains the same.

But their sights have now started to stray a bit toward the horizon, prompting coach Leo Austria to repeatedly give his charges reality checks.

"Okay lang na mangarap, na buhay pa kami for a top two slot," explained Austria. "Pero we need to stay in the moment, kung ano muna nasa harapan namin."

Austria has good reason to keep his team focused for standing right in front of SMB is GlobalPort, which is stoked by its own pressing agenda going to their collision Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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The Batang Pier have dropped two in a row and are now teetering on the brink of getting denied inclusion among the top eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals following the 11-game eliminations.

Understandably, GlobalPort would want nothing more than to get back on track with a win which should serve it in good stead going to its final elims assignments against Phoenix, Columbian and Barangay Ginebra.

For its part, SMB is eyeing a fourth straight win that would keep it firmly entrenched at fifth-running spot.

More wins, not only over GlobalPort but also against TNT, NLEX, Blackwater and Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok and the Beermen could even contend for a top two slot.

First things first, according to Austria. "For me, GlobalPort can beat any team in this league," he said.
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"Their guards in (Stanley) Pringle and (Nico) Elorde are playing really well, they have very capable big men in (Mo) Tautuaa and (Kelly) Nabong and (Sean) Anthony is also playing great.

"And they also have their import (Malcolm White)."

The six-time champion coach believes it's just a matter of the Batang Pier putting their acts together, especially in the endgame, anew for them to snap out of their rut.

But SMB is coming in equally prepared.

Fresh from his FIBA 3x3 World Cup stint with Pringle and TNT's Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario, Christian Standhardinger remains a game time decision for Austria.

"We have played two games na wala siya and we have prepared for the eventuality na hindi pa rin siya maglalaro bukas, but we're ready," offered the coach.

Renaldo Balkman and June Mar Fajardo are boosting Austria's optimism.

Posting an average 30.3 points in the four games he has played thus far, Balkman leads all scorers and also norms 14.75 rebounds and 4.0 assists to boot. Fajardo, meanwhile, is usually good for 19.83 points, 12.67 rebounds and 2.0 dimes an outing.

Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Arwind Santos and Chris Ross could also be counted on by Austria to deliver the goods when it matters.(NC)