SAN Miguel Beer may be on a two-game roll and in thick of the race for a top four seeding in the PBA Governors Cup quarterfinals, but coach Leo Austria still can't shake off a nagging concern.
"Alam mo naman ang team namin. Kapag ang kalaban nasa ibaba, mas bumababa ang laro. Kapag malakas ang kalaban, malakas din ang laro namin," Austria has said.
"I hope iyung attitude na 'yun mabago."
The Beermen sure could do away with that bad "habit," as Austria termed it, Saturday when they tangle with the eliminated Kia Picanto at the Mall of Asia Arena.
A win by SMB would give it fourth-running spot and more victories against Phoenix on Wednesday and Meralco at elims' end on Sunday and its spot among the top four. each rewarded with a twice-to-beat advantage in the next round, is secure.
A loss against a 0-9 Kia team would greatly jeopardize the Beermen's bid and, according to Austria, that is not too far-fetched a possibility and not only because of their even 4-4 head-to-head record.
"It seems comfortable na sila sa system at sa isa't-isa and it showed in their last game," said Austria, referring to Kia's match against Alaska last Sunday.
The Picanto lost that one, 94-102, but not after dishing out their worthiest performance than in their previous eight defeats, engaging the Aces through 10 deadlocks and six lead changes and even taking a 10-point lead early in the fourth period.
The effort, though wasted, still drew praise from Kia shotcaller Chris Gavina. "I couldn't have been more proud of my guys tonight with their type of game. This was a game I could take," he said after.
"Majority of the games I couldn't take because there's no effort, there's no heart. This one my guys showed they had both. I told them, '?ou guys keep believing, turn this corner, and stay together, and you guys will be able to compete against everybody.'"
SMB is itself coming off a 107-103 win over erstwhile streaking Barangay Ginebra, a game which saw the Beermen almost blowing as much as a 26-point lead before hanging tough in the stretch.
Austria said his charges getting off to another fiery start and, unlike in the game against the Kings, is a must for them to prevail against the Picanto.
Key for the protagonsts should be on how their respective imports perform.
In only his second game for Kia since coming in for Markeith Cummings, Geron Johnson scored 39 points.
More impressive was Terrence Watson, SMB's third reinforcement after Wendell McKines and Teric Bridgeman, as he debuted with allying 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting, 17 boards, four assists, two blocks, and one steal against only two turnovers.