MANILA, Philippines – As the basketball cliché goes, "a win is a win." But San Miguel coach Leo Austria knows they cannot be satisfied after hacking out a 77-76 victory over the Star Hotshots in Game 2 of their PBA Commissioner's Cup semifinals series on Monday.
The Beermen were able to get a stop in the final possession of the game, forcing Paul Lee into a tough floater that allowed them to escape with the one-point victory and tie the best-of-five series at one game apiece.
"We're lucky, because the last shot of Paul Lee did not connect," Austria admitted after the grind-it-out contest that saw San Miguel go scoreless in the final three minutes and 42 seconds of the game.
"We're lucky, (pero) kahit na one point 'yan, talagang tatanggapin ko ng buong-buo," he added.
(Even if it's just a one-point win, I will accept it whole-heartedly.)
But Austria also knows that San Miguel could have made the game a lot easier for themselves if they played better offensively. The Beermen were the highest-scoring team in the eliminations, averaging 108.5 points per game on 47.3% shooting from the field.
They lost Game 1, 109-105, with Austria pointing to their four technical fouls that yielded four free throws as the determining factor.
With momentum on their side following their Game 2 win, however, Austria is hopeful that the Beermen can finally unleash the scoring avalanche that they have often relied on in previous playoff runs.
"I hope na next game, mailabas namin 'yung arsenal namin [I hope in our next game, we can show our arsenal]," he said. "This is not really our game yet."
"If you will notice, during the eliminations, everybody is enjoying the game and we're averaging 109 points per game. But tonight, we only scored 77, maybe because of the deliberate basketball or the defense of the other team," he added. "Star is known for their defense eh."
Charles Rhodes had 21 points and 10 rebounds for SMB, and their entire starting line-up finished in double-digits. But Marcio Lassiter was scoreless in the first half after firing 11 points in the first half, and their other guards – Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross – also failed to register a point in the final quarter of the game.
It helped San Miguel immensely that Ronald Tubid managed five points in the payoff period, but getting Lassiter, Cabagnot, and Ross going offensively will go a long way towards earning the comfortable win that Austria craves.
"We're not yet happy. Imagine, sinwerte lang kami na hindi nila na-shoot 'yung last shot [We were lucky they did not make the last shot]," the coach said. "Maybe, if we can win by 20 or 15."
"They scored 76 (points), we're happy with our defense. But we're known for being the No. 1 team offensively, but we scored only 77 points," he added.
"I don't know kung maganda 'yung defense ng kalaban or masama ang offense namin. But in this game, we're able to tie the series."
For Austria, the most immediate area of improvement should be their free throw shooting. San Miguel managed to convert only 11 of 22 charities, with June Mar Fajardo making only four of his 10 shots at the line.
San Miguel normed 69% from the line in the elimination round.
"Free throws could win a game eh," said Austria. "Imagine, we won by a point. Kung 'di namin nai-shoot ang isang free throw, baka talo kami. What more kung mapapasok namin ang at least 80%? I think that's our weakness eh, mababa ang shooting percentage namin sa free throw."
[If we missed just one more free throw, we might have lost. But what if we can shoot at least 80% from the line? That's one of our weakness, we have poor free throw shooting percentage.]
Game 3 of the best-of-five series is on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
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