TNT consultant Mark Dickel shrugged off the notion that exhaustion is becoming a problem as the team continues to deal with a shortened rotation versus San Miguel in the PBA Commissioner's Cup finals.
Instead, he thinks that the KaTropa's hunger is enough fuel in what is now a virtual best-of-three race for the title.
"I don't see it as an excuse either way. At this point, we are playing six (players) and they are playing seven," Dickel told ESPN5.
"[They] are a champion team. They had my respect before from our last playoff series in the All-Filipino conference. Best-of-three now comes down to which team wants it more, and we believe right now in this series that it's us," he added.
Injuries to Anthony Semerad (shoulder), Ryan Reyes (calf) and Kelly Williams (back) have forced Dickel and the staff to work with a shallower bench against SMB. TNT has only managed a total of 20 points from their second unit across four high-octane games, a slight drop from what was already a paltry 21.1 output (second to the last) in 11 games before the playoffs.
Only Brian Heruela (22.3 minutes) has logged considerable playing time off the pine as eight other players combined to hit the court for just an average of 17.1 minutes in the finals, including only 3:53 minutes of playing time from Harvey Carey, Marion Magat and JK Casino in Game 4.
"I like to play multiple guys. Injuries to Kelly, Tony and Ryan have made it a totally different team and [we're managing] without the practice time to work on how the other players can fit in and [how] we can adjust," he said.
Despite this, Dickel is firm on the idea that the starters will continue to log heavy minutes as they look to counter San Miguel's potent firepower. Import Terrence Jones currently leads the team in minutes played per game this series at 47.4, while RR Pogoy leads all locals by tallying 44.1 minutes so far. Jayson Castro (43.4) isn't far behind, while Troy Rosario (38.2) and Don Trollano (37.9) also saw massive increases in their own workload.
"I believe that all of our guys currently playing major minutes can play as we need them to. Tiredness is nothing more than an excuse. If we want it bad enough, we will win," Dickel said.
The consultant, however, didn't rule out the possibility of digging deeper into his rotation. Dickel kept things close to the chest and didn't bare any names, but a Game 1 scenario where six players aside from Heruela came off the bench to play a total of 32:36 minutes could happen on Game 5 on Wednesday.
"I will give other guys on the bench an opportunity as the series continues," he said.
That will be an approach worth monitoring as the team searches for ways to dispose San Miguel, whose bench (26.0 points per game vs. TNT so far) is made relatively deeper by the presence of Terrence Romeo (28.3 mpg) and Christian Standhardinger (18.11 mpg).
"San Miguel [is] really talented and deep, their players are experienced and as the games go on, they figure things out. We are going to have to outplay them to win," said Dickel.