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PBA: SMB puts premium on defense

San Miguel's Chris Ross steals the ball from Star Hotshots' PJ Simon  (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

San Miguel’s Chris Ross steals the ball from Star Hotshots’ PJ Simon (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

by Waylon Galvez

The San Miguel Beermen resumed their practice session yesterday to prepare for their championship showdown against TNT KaTropa in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, and for most part of the three-hour scrimmage, coach Leo Austria was giving instructions on how to execute their defense.

“Offense is not a problem for us,” said Austria.

It was only a light practice session by SMB, almost a walkthrough as Austria made point after point on defensive assignments and rotations, primarily on TNT shooters who thrive on the dribble-drive offense being implemented by KaTropa coach Nash Racela.

Also, with a 6-foot-10, 330-lb. import in Joshua Smith, the KaTropa playmakers Jayson Castro and RR Garcia have been successful in executing pick and roll plays, especially in the semifinal round against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel – a team they beat 3-1 in the best-of-five series.

“We have to focus on defense because they also score a lot so we’ve got to limit the scoring – dribble-drive, pick and roll, post play of their import Smith,” said Austria at The Upper Deck Sports Center in Pasig City.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven finals series between SMB and TNT will begin Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. TNT won their only elimination round meeting, 102-93, last month when the KaTropa then had Donte Greene as import.

Austria said they are preparing for a TNT team that has Smith on the lineup, although this may change depending on his health since he injured his right foot during Game 3 of the semifinals.

Smith did play in the series-clinching Game 4 Saturday, but the team’s standby import Mike Myers is already in town if in case the latter’s status – partial tear between four and five toes – worsens in the title series.

Regardless of who TNT fields, Austria said it’s both a problem for them, especially his frontline.

“We don’t know yet who’ll play (import). If it’s Smith, he’s very big, and we’re concerned with his post play. If it’s the new import, pala-isipan para samin yan,” said Austria.

“We just have to be ready kung sino anf magpapakita sa kanila sa Game 1,” Austria added.

SMB import Charles Rhodes shares the same sentiment of his coach, as he fully understands that TNT is a strong team regardless who they parade as reinforcement in the finals.

“It really doesn’t matter which import they’ll bring in (for Game 1),” said Rhodes. “Because they are a great team, they have great guards, great shooting big men, and a have a great coach, who knows basketball.”

“It’s going to be tough, whether they have Smith or the other guy. They’re a tough team to beat,” he said.