MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel Beer was seven seconds away from forcing overtime in Game 1 of the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals against the TNT KaTropa, but instead lost in heartbreaking fashion after Joshua Smith scored the game-winning basket.
The bulky TNT import drained the hook shot over June Mar Fajardo to seal their 104-102 win, giving the KaTropa a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Finals series.
The Beermen could do little but give credit to Smith for his heroics.
"Their import made a tough shot," said Chris Ross, whose 11-point, 12-assist game went for naught. "He's their import for a reason. They went to him. June Mar played great defense, but he made a tough shot."
"Napasok niya eh," said Fajardo, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds in the loss. "Para sa kanila talaga 'yung game."
[He made the shot. The game was for them.]
More than Smith's final shot, it was their mistakes earlier in the game that doomed San Miguel. Coach Leo Austria noted that they committed 23 turnovers in the game, up from their average of 17.2 throwaways per game in the elimination round.
Their turnovers led to 27 points for TNT. In contrast, the KaTropa committed 17 turnovers of their own, with San Miguel scoring 17 points from those miscues.
"Imagine, we out-rebounded them by six rebounds, but the problem is we committed 23 turnovers against 17. In the first half, makikita mo 'yung turnover points nila, 19. So that's one thing that we have to limit," said Austria.
"They got a lot of easy points, and that's one thing na we want to solve," he added.
Marcio Lassiter, who had three turnovers, agreed with their coach. "We had 23 turnovers. If we cut that in half, we could turn the other way," he said. "I couldn't blame the shots. The turnovers, I could blame."
"That's just on us not being responsible and taking care of the ball," Lassiter added.
Another problem was their surprisingly poor three-point shooting. San Miguel made only six of their 29 three-pointers in Game 1, a 20% rate. They shot 34.4% from beyond the arc in the elimination round, the third best mark in the PBA.
Lassiter, who shot a blistering 42.2% from the three-point area in the eliminations, missed all six of his triples, including a heave in the final second that could have won the game.
"Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don't," said Lassiter. "We got good looks, we just got to make them."
Ross, who missed all four of his triples, stressed that SMB simply missed shots that they often made.
"Everybody had good looks," he said. "We just didn't make shots. The looks we got, I'll live with that. Marcio is shooting those open shots, Arwind (Santos), Alex (Cabagnot), myself. As long as we're getting open looks, and everyone's shooting with confidence, I'm fine with that."
"Eventually, we'll make it," Ross added. "We're a really good shooting team, so I don't see it being a problem going forward."
Austria said they will definitely be making some adjustments in Game 2, not only with regards to their three-point shooting and turnovers, but also on how to limit Smith. The TNT import had 21 points in the game, making eight of his 17 shots.
Roger Pogoy and RR Garcia were also problems for SMB, as the former Far Eastern University standouts combined for 40 points in the game and torched the Beermen from the perimeter.
Still, the Beermen remain upbeat. As Ross said, they were not at their best, yet lost by only two points.
"We'll make a few more adjustments, and come back better on Friday," he said.
"It's Game 1, and we lost by a bucket," added Lassiter. "We'll see what we did wrong, and see what they did to make the adjustments, and go from there."
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