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'He really wanted to win': SMB's Austria unsurprised by monster numbers from Shabazz

Luisa Morales - Philstar.com
'He really wanted to win': SMB's Austria unsurprised by monster numbers from Shabazz
Shabazz Muhammad
PBA media bureau

MANILA, Philippines — San Miguel Beermen import Shabazz Muhammad was a one-man wrecking crew against the Meralco Bolts on Saturday to lead SMB to the 115-110 comeback victory in the PBA Governor's Cup.

The 29-year-old, who had stints with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks, quite literally carried the team on his back with a monster stat line of 57 points and 19 rebounds in a grueling 45 minutes of play.

His tremendous performance for the Beermen helped them claw back from a 26-point deficit to finish with a 7-4 slate heading into the quarterfinals, putting them in a good position to hopefully claim a twice-to-beat advantage.

But SMB head coach Leo Austria was not caught off guard by the import's offensive outburst.

"What I saw from him was he really wanted to win. Because [he] knows the importance of this game eh. This is the only way how to get into the next round with the advantage of a twice-to-beat," Austria said after the game.

The decorated tactician also said that it was not unlike Muhammad to come up with numbers like that.

He once scored 60 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for the Shanxi Brave Dragons in 2019 when they lost to the Guangsha Lions, 118-127.

"I think it's not surprising for everybody because I think what he did tonight, in other leagues, ginagawa niya yan eh," said Austrlia.

"But as early as now, lumabas ang ganito, we're happy for him," he added.

But Austria reiterated that his wards will not be resting on their laurels and expecting Muhammad to do all the heavy lifting in the playoffs.

Determined not to be a one-man show, Austria says he expects the locals to keep up.

"Still, we need to do something for him dahil lang it seemed na one man team kanina. But I'm so happy with those locals, the support in terms of defense and then in terms of energy they provided," he said.

Against Meralco, Muhammad received support on the scoring column from three other Beermen in twin-digit scoring.

June Mar Fajardo chipped in with 16 points, while Vic Manuel and Marcio Lassiter contributed 13 and 10 markers from the bench, respectively.

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