MANILA, Philippines -- The San Miguel Beermen did not get to do their usual warm-up ahead of their PBA Philippine Cup game against Meralco on Wednesday night, and it showed in their shaky start.
The Beermen missed all eight of the three-pointers they took in the first half, although they managed to stay in step with the Bolts, thanks to Moala Tautuaa flexing his muscle inside the paint. Still, it wasn't until late in the third quarter that they finally got their rhythm, when Meralco had already built a double-digit lead.
"We had a bad start," SMB head coach Leo Austria admitted. "That is because of preparation namin to the game."
"We didn't have a good warm up. That is because when we arrived here, somebody's using the court," he revealed. "I think that's the main problem. That's why most of our shots... talagang hindi pumapasok."
San Miguel snatched the momentum heading into the fourth period when Chris Ross drilled a triple to beat the third quarter buzzer, trimming their deficit to nine points, 69-60.
His shot energized the Beermen, and they dominated the final frame as they outscored Meralco, 29-13. It was Ross who put the finishing touches on the win, as he drilled the dagger three-pointer with 20 seconds left that pegged the final score at 89-82.
"Once na nag-init na sila, so that's it," said Austria. "Makikita mo, sluggish sila eh. Probably the culprit is 'yung warm-up namin."
"But I'm so thankful dahil noong second half, especially in the fourth quarter, they were able to connect from the three," he added.
After going 0-for-9 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Beermen made eight of their 15 attempts in the second half.
For Austria, it was another display of his team's ability to elevate their play come crunch time. Aside from Ross, Alex Cabagnot also shone in the final frame, hitting nine points to keep the Bolts at bay. Tautuaa was superb all game long, finishing with 23 points.
"We're so lucky in the fourth quarter, we're able to catch up, because they know, this is winning time. So they know how to win. And we banked on the experience of the players," said the coach.
It was San Miguel's third straight win, putting them on track for a top four spot in the conference, which carries with it a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.