MANILA, Philippines -- San Miguel is once again in an iffy situation to start a conference, after the Beermen lost to Barangay Ginebra on Sunday to drop to 1-3 in the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup.
The Beermen squandered a 15-point lead in the first quarter, and had to rally from a nine-point deficit in the third frame to force overtime against the Gin Kings. They could not get the job done, however, falling 110-107 to suffer another defeat.
Coach Leo Austria called the loss "heartbreaking."
"Tonight's game is really heartbreaking for us. It's winnable, but the breaks of the game is not on our side eh," he said.
San Miguel trailed 99-95 with 2:31 to go, but knotted the count after buckets by Alex Cabagnot and import Charles Rhodes. Rhodes could have given them the lead, as he was also fouled by Joe Devance, but missed the bonus free throw.
The Beermen lost Rhodes to his sixth foul in overtime, and their execution down the stretch faltered. Potential go-ahead shots by Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross missed their marks.
"This game is really important for us. You know, our situation right now, we're 1-3," said Austria.
"But we're not panicking. We still have a chance to get to the quarterfinals," he was quick to add.
Indeed, Austria said they are taking plenty of positives from the game. "If we will maintain the kind of game we displayed tonight, I think we could win a lot of games in the last remaining seven games," he explained.
Still, to see San Miguel get off to another slow start is concerning. This marks the fourth straight conference that they labored through the early part of their schedule; the last time SMB started a conference well was in the 2017-18 All-Filipino Cup, when they reeled off five straight wins to begin their campaign.
Even in the 2019 Philippine Cup, which they ruled, the Beermen still had to recover from a 2-3 start.
"As much as possible we don't want to have a situation like this na slow start, then parang switch on, switch off, ano," said Austria.
The SMB coach had anticipated that the Beermen will struggle in the Commissioner's Cup, because the presence of a big import negated the advantage they have with reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo. Moreover, the gap between conferences was quite short: the Commissioner's Cup started just a few days after San Miguel won the All-Filipino tournament.
"Hopefully, we could recover from this slow start," said Austria. "Dahil if we will get to the quarterfinals, especially in the Top 6, we'll be okay."
San Miguel will try to get back to the winning track on Friday when they take on the Alaska Aces at the Cuneta Astrodome.
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