San Miguel Beer and top seed TNT KaTropa will start their best-of-seven finals battle at 6:30 p.m. tonight in Season 44 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
SMB beat RoS, 98-95, in Game 4 of their best-of-five semifinals series on Friday.
Beermen coach Leo Austria believes that TNT is no underdog as described by KaTropa import Terrence Jones, a former member of the Houston Rockets in the NBA.
KaTropa won 10 of their 11 games in the elimination, beat Alaska in the quarterfinals, and dethroned Ginebra in the semifinals.
“That’s a comment from a great player,” said Austria. “They’re just saying that because we often eliminate them in the playoffs. Their local players got used to the kind of game Jones has to offer.”
Austria added that TNT in actuality is the more popular team because of promising local players in their lineup like Roger Pogoy, Brian Heruela, Don Trollano, Troy Rosario and Yousef Taha.
“I think they are the favorite because they have a lot of emerging players. It’s hard to stop Jones. We could have a better chance if Marcio (Lassiter) will play. It is going to be tough. They wouldn’t finish 10-1 in the elimination if they are not a powerhouse team,” he added.
With Lassiter sidelined by a knee injury, the Beermen will have to rely on on Alex Cabagnot, Terrence Romeo, Chris Ross, Arwind Santos, Christian Standhardinger and five-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo.
TNT coach Bong Ravena, meanwhile, said they must remain up on their toes against a formidable team like San Miguel Beer.
“There’s no time to rest because San Miguel Beer has been in the finals in the past few conferences, they are steady in the championship round, they have the experience. So we have to take advantage of all the chances we are going to get. The last time we’re in the finals was two years ago,” said Ravena.
The KaTropa, under its then coach Nash Racela, lost to the Beermen in 2017 Commissioner’s Cup finals.
“We will compete with them, we are the underdogs, but we will take our chances,” concluded Ravena.