San Miguel Beer let Renaldo Balkman’s 34th birthday Saturday pass without fanfare, demonstrating the team’s commitment to focus on a bid to make a seventh PBA finals in 11 conferences.
Balkman and his teammates try to close in on that goal, going for a two-game-to-nil lead versus the beleaguered Alaska Milk squad at the resumption of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-five semi-final showdown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum
There’s no celebration even after San Miguel drubbed Alaska Milk, 92-79, in the series opener.
“I’ll save my celebration later when I get a couple days off, when I’m not playing basketball. What counts right now is winning a championship,” said Balkman.
“I’m motivated to get to the finals, of course, but we got two more left. We got to get to the next one. We’ll get it through. We got to stick to the game plan. We’ll play together and go out and get a win,” he added.
His teammates are as determined and motivated.
“We need two more. We’re gonna take care of things, and we’ll play with more energy,” said Marcio Lassiter.
San Miguel stretched its streak against Alaska Milk in playoff matches, using the full force of its core rotation to pull off a dominant win in Game One.
June Mar Fajardo led six SMB players in double digits as they made it five in a row in playoff tiffs versus the Aces counting their epic fightback from 0-3 down in the 2016 Philippine Cup Finals.
With a badly crippled line-up, Alaska may need to dig deep to have a chance against SMB.
Chris Banchero is indefinitely out of the series as he attends a family emergency. Calvin Abueva is also out of commission, serving an indefinite suspension.
“It’s a family matter and we are going to leave it at that. I hope none of us goes through it,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton on what’s Banchero is out for.
As Alaska’s leader in minutes played, Banchero puts in averages of 10.2 points, 6.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals.
“He’s one of our pressure guys,” said Compton on the key role that Banchero plays.
Nonetheless, Compton isn’t counting his team out yet.
“I’m a believer, but it ain’t easy. We’ll see,” he said.