Balkman and Brownlee face off in critical Beermen-Ginebra meeting

Renaldo Balkman and Justin Brownlee a month ago were celebrating a championship when they led the Alab Pilipinas to the 2018 ASEAN Basketball League crown.

But come Sunday, they will be on opposite sides as Balkman reinforces the San Miguel Beermen, while Brownlee is back for another stint with Barangay Ginebra.

It's expected to be an intense affair at 6:45 p.m. as both squads currently occupy the bottom half of the standings.

San Miguel (1-3) registered its first victory last Wednesday after blasting Phoenix, 106-94 behind Balkman's 35 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks.

Ginebra (1-4) bowed to Meralco, 93-82, wasting Brownlee's triple-double 20 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists in his debut game in the PBA Commissioner's Cup.

SMB coach Leo Austria acknowledges the excitement surrounding Balkman vs. Brownlee but at this point, he's more concerned with how his team will play, given their sluggish start this conference.

"We're up against a bigger team in Ginebra and that's a very important game for us," said Austria, whose team dominated the opening conference by winning a historic fourth straight Philippine Cup crown.

"I think it's a good matchup. Everyone has been anticipating for the matchup between June Mar [Fajardo] and Greg Slaughter. And then the matchup also between Balkman and Brownlee has long been anticipated by the fans," he added.

Although the Kings were outplayed by the Arinze Onuaku-led Meralco Bolts, Austria said Sunday game is about focusing on his players.

"We're in a situation that we can't afford to make mistakes," explained Austria, who won all his six PBA titles with San Miguel. "I'm hoping our team can regain their focus."