MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel head coach Leo Austria knew exactly why the Beermen fell short in Game 4 of the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals against the TNT KaTropa on Wednesday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.
Eyeing a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Beermen found they had no answer for Jayson Castro in the fourth quarter and TNT came away with a 102-97 win to tie the series at 2-2 instead.
"More or less, you know what happened in the game," Austria told reporters after the loss. "I guess the impact is with our big men. They got into foul trouble."
Both June Mar Fajardo and newly-crowned Best Import Charles Smith found themselves saddled with foul trouble early, and that allowed TNT import Joshua Smith to have his way inside the paint.
"In the last two games, we were able to limit him from scoring, but tonight, at will nakaka-score siya. That is because our big men got into foul trouble," said Austria.
Even with both Fajardo and Rhodes in foul trouble, San Miguel still managed to keep up with the KaTropa, and the Beermen were in control in the fourth period. However, Austria noted that they were unable to play as they usually do because of the foul situation of their bigs.
"Everybody knows that our play is centered on our big men, and they did a good job of trying to attack our big men," he said. "The last two games, we're able to prevent that from happening, because of our double-teaming."
"But [in Game 4], every time we will double, there's a foul eh. I think that's why medyo disorganized, because hindi makaporma ang big men namin dahil they're in foul trouble," Austria further explained. "They cannot play good defense."
Even on offense, they were hesitant because they might be whistled for an offensive foul, the coach said.
Austria had wanted to stagger Rhodes' and Fajardo's minutes so that at least one of them will always be on the floor. Given their foul situation, he had to field in Yancy de Ocampo, who provided one three-pointer but could do little to contain Smith inside the paint.
Fajardo wound up fouling out with two minutes left, while Rhodes' frustration boiled over with 68 seconds to go, when he threw TNT's Ryan Reyes to the court. He was called for his second technical of the game and thrown out of the game.
Nevertheless, Austria believes SMB can take comfort in that they remained within striking distance late in the game even with their big men struggling.
"It's not really a problem dahil dikit pa rin kami until the last five minutes, when we committed a lot of turnovers. Sometimes, it's the breaks of the game dahil may mga fouls na hindi natawag," he said.
"Very close kami, down by two points. What more if we will be organized? We were very disorganized because of our big men who were in foul trouble, na-throw out pa," he added.
For Friday's Game 5, Austria says the Beermen simply need to play with greater intensity, after observing that his team appeared relaxed in Game 4.
"A little bit of confidence siguro ang pumasok sa amin, dahil too relaxed eh," he said. "That's what we don't want to happen. Dahil at 2-1, you're leading, so nakakapanghinayang eh. If you will win the fourth game, that's 3-1, so I think that's a big advantage."
"Now, it's a virtual best-of-3, so this is a new ball game, a new series."
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