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Austria says 'complacent' San Miguel Beermen not playing like title-chasers

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Meralco blows out Beermen (2:17)

San Miguel dropped its second-straight game as the Meralco Bolts easily handled the Beermen. (2:17)

It took about an hour and a half before San Miguel coach Leo Austria spoke to the media after his Beermen swallowed a 125-99 blowout loss at the hands of a well-rounded Meralco Bolts side Sunday.

"We had a lengthy discussion. We're trying to figure out what's really happening with our team," Austria said after coming out of the team's locker room. "The problem in our last few games is we're just playing, we're not competing."

The last two weeks haven't been friendly for San Miguel, which has now lost its second straight game and three of its last four after racing to a 4-0 start in the PBA Governors' Cup. That loss to the Bolts highlights what is ailing the struggling Beermen.

"What is lacking in our team is we're so complacent because of a good start," Austria said. "They thought it's easy to win. I told them we should not dwell on the last two championships because a lot of teams right now are playing well, and they have very good teams with the presence of very good import."

Austria pins much of the struggles on the locals' play. San Miguel fields a notoriously small rotation -- as evidenced by a bottom-three bench mark (27.1 per game) -- and the surrounding cast has not supported Dez Wells even after the import blew up for two 50-point games in two of the three losses.

"[H]e cannot do it alone," Austria said of Wells. "I think we have a problem with the locals because we're relying more on him."

Fatigue might also be a factor, although Austria thinks that it's part and parcel of playing for a perennial championship contender.

"Sometimes, we cannot blame them because they're playing continuously in the past five years. We're always in the playoffs, we're always in the finals. We have out-of-the-country games," admitted Austria. "But that's how it is, you're a player, you're a professional so accept it. You have to prepare yourself. In the other league (NBA), they play 50 games, 80 games, almost every other day. But in this team, you should be prepared."

San Miguel will have ample time to find its rhythm since it's not set to play until Nov. 6, when it could set itself back on the winning track against the struggling Blackwater Elite. But the Beermen do not have much of a margin for error.

At 5-3, SMB currently sits at fifth place behind TNT (7-1), NLEX (6-1), Meralco (5-2) and Barangay Ginebra (4-2). The team could still sneak into the final four picture for a twice-to-beat advantage, but the window of opportunity is closing with only three elimination games remaining.

"We're fortunate because we have 10 days before our next game and a chance to reflect because we're trying to figure out what's really wrong with us, if it is physically, mentally, or psychologically. There's so many things that contributed to our bad performance in the last four games," Austria noted.

"Our goal in the eliminations this conference is first, to get to the final four. It's a little bit difficult, but the chances are still there," he added. "We still have three games left, but we should act together. We have to support each other."

After all, a lot of their Grand Slam chances lie on how they manage to respond to these challenges heading into the crucial stages of the season-ending conference.

"We should get back to the way we played in the playoffs [because] the way we play right now is not like we're looking for another championship," said Austria. "We're after the goal of so many fans, management, and the team because this is the rare opportunity -- I don't want to mention it, everybody knows because that's something that could pressure the team. But first things first: We should act together."