By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
FACING the possibility of playing the rest of the best-of-seven Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup finals series sans big man Raymond Almazan, the Meralco Bolts are bracing for a rougher road ahead against the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings, necessitating for them to make added adjustments.
Midway into the opening quarter of Game Three on Sunday, Mr. Almazan went down with an apparent knee injury after colliding with Barangay Ginebra guard LA Tenorio.
The Meralco center failed to return to the game after and was set to undergo an MRI later on Sunday. Results have yet to be revealed as of this writing.
For Bolts coach Norman Black, the loss of Mr. Almazan affected their thrust in Game Three as they went on to lose, 92-84, and fell behind in the series, 1-2.
Mr. Black said from his initial assessment, they might have lost the services of Mr. Almazan, who they acquired from the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters via trade, for the rest of the series.
“From my viewpoint, we came out of the locker room very flat. We found out at halftime that we would probably lose Raymond for the rest of the game, and possibly the rest of the series. I think the guys were a bit down. They lacked the energy and the intensity going into the third quarter. I don’t know how much they were affected by it but they seemingly were and Ginebra did a good job on jumping on us and taking advantage of that, taking control of the game,” Mr. Black said post-Game Three.
“I try to be positive as possible. But when I talked to him, he said he could not move his leg. And as a former player it’s never a good sign. I hope he’ll be okay but I know when you have a swollen knee in the middle of a finals series it’s something you don’t bounce back right away,” he added.
The match was tightly fought in the opening half, with the Kings up by only a point, 43-42, at the break.
In the third quarter, Barangay Ginebra started to blow the game open.
It open the frame with a 10-0 run as Stanley Pringle started to find his mark, helping his team to a 53-42 lead with 9:43 to go.
The Kings stretched their lead to 21 points, 76-55, with a minute left before settling for a 78-68 advantage heading into the fourth.
But Meralco would not go down without a fight.
Led by rookie Trevis Jackson and import Allen Durham, the Bolts tried to rally back, coming to within five points, 87-82, with 2:04 left in the game.
But they would not get any closer than that as Barangay Ginebra went for the closeout after.
Chris Newsome top-scored for Meralco in the loss with 24 points with Mr. Durham adding 23 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Bryan Faundo came off the bench to fire off 10 points in place of Mr. Almazan, who had two points and two rebounds before leaving the game because of his injury.
For Barangay Ginebra, it was import Justin Brownlee who led with 24 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Japeth Aguilar had 23 points and seven blocks to win player of the game honors.
Mr. Pringle finished with 21 points, 17 coming from their telling third-quarter run. Mr. Tenorio had 11 markers.
“Because of what happened we will try to adjust as much as we can just in case we play without him (Almazan) and be ready in the next game. Our biggest concern is that without Raymond, you saw what happened, Japeth ran wild. Raymond allows us to match up with the big men of other teams. Without him we have a hole,” Mr. Black said.
Meralco looks to bounce back in Game Four tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.