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Coaches say SMB is the wise bet in PBA finals

RR Garcia (middle) guards his former teammate in San Miguel Beer, Chris Ross in this file photo. | PBA Media Bureau

Game Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)

7 p.m. – San Miguel vs TNT KaTropa

MANILA, Philippines – With Josh Smith’s exit looking imminent, PBA coaches consider San Miguel Beer as the favorite in its PBA Commissioner’s Cup title showdown with TNT KaTropa that begins Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

If Smith is able to recover, some coaches foresee a slam-bang battle between the two teams that are pitted in a titular matchup for the first time in six years.

The Beermen are in their 38th finals, gunning for a 24th crown while the Texters are in their 17th championship series, chasing an eighth title.

San Miguel’s is also on track for a possible grand slam, a feat the team has achieved in 1989 with a team led by PBA all-time greats Mon Fernandez, Ricky Brown, Samboy Lim and Hector Calma.

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For the Texters, one top motivation is to avenge a championship series loss to the Beermen that foiled their own grand slam bid in 2011.

The coaches, however, are convinced SMB is the wise bet in this title playoff, pointing to the import problem of TNT as a key factor.

No doubt, the quality of an import is always crucial in reinforced PBA tourneys.

“We hear that they’re changing their import. If they do so, it’s a matter of adjustment,” said GlobalPort coach Franz Pumaren.

“By Wednesday, he may no longer feel the effects of jetlag. But the locals can’t practice anymore. If ever, it will all be walkthroughs, and jelling is also a factor,” Pumaren added.

“Familiarity will be a big key in this series, and it’s on San Miguel’s side. It’s unfortunate. It could’ve been a great series if not for the injury suffered by the TNT import,” said Phoenix Fuel coach Ariel Vanguardia.

Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia sees a San Miguel Beer victory in six games while also taking into consideration that adjustments TNT has to make in case of an import change.

Pumaren and Garcia said the Beermen have got an edge even if Smith is healthy.

“San Miguel has an import that is tailor-made for them. He can score, he can rebound and he can defend. Then they have a June Mar Fajardo who also plays like an import,” said Pumaren.

The GlobalPort bench tactician said the TNT import should at least match up with the SMB reinforcement for the Texters to have a chance to win the series.

Mahindra coach Chris Gavina sees a “hell of a battle” if Smith can play.

“San Miguel is a warrior, knowing well what to do. But TNT has come together and has players that can explode at any given night,” said Gavina.

“A new champion will be crowned and it looks like a great series, but I’m leaning towards San Miguel because of Smith’s injury,” Gavina added.

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