Raymond Almazan grimaces in pain after his awkward fall in Game Three
With or without Almazan Bolts vow to go all out
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Whether or not it’s a full complement Meralco team hitting the floor for Game 4, Barangay Ginebra anticipates another tough challenge from the gritty Bolts as the Gin Kings gun for a commanding 3-1 lead in the PBA Governors’ Cup title series tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Gin Kings put themselves at an advantageous position by taking Game 3, 92-84, and the crowd favorites seek to strike again at 7 p.m. and get on the hill against a rival hit by the injury to key big man Raymond Almazan.

“We expect this game to be another huge battle,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, whose wards had to grind it out with the defensive-savvy Bolts in the series.

“I said it before, these are the games we’re going have – ping-pong, back and forth – and nothing’s gonna come easy. We learned that in Game 2 (loss); nothing’s easy,” he added.

Ginebra may have one less headache to worry as Almazan sustained a “lateral meniscal tear” on his left knee last Sunday, making him doubtful for the crucial fourth match or the rest of the series.

“Almazan is a game-time decision as far as if he will play in Game 4. He will warm up before the game and let me know,” said Bolts mentor Norman Black.

With or without Almazan, Meralco vowed to go all out to try to force a 2-2 stalemate.

“We are in a must-win situation again so we will be there fighting,” said Black, stressing, “We must improve our defense to give ourselves a chance.”

The 6-foot-8 Almazan, whom Meralco acquired from a trade with Rain or Shine to solve its big man problems, averaged 17.5 points, 11 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the finals before limping out at 5:55 in the first quarter of Game 3.

“Because of what happened, we just have to try to make as many adjustments as we can in case we play without Raymond and be ready,” said Meralco coach Norman Black, needing Bryan Faundo and Reynel Hugnatan to step up with Almazan’s situation.

“What he (Almazan) has done this conference is give us an opportunity to match up with the big men of the other teams and without him we almost have a hole in the middle so we have to try and find a way to camouflage it or at least try to fix it,” he added.

As import Allen Durham put it, the Bolts are taking the next-man-up mentality.

“I’m ready to give whatever contribution I can give. I really have to step up,” said Faundo.

Ginebra skipper LA Tenorio said the Gin Kings must be wary of Meralco’s shock troopers after seeing Faundo come up big in Game 3 and previously Nico Salva and John Pinto.

“Our defense is getting better, especialy against Durham. But we have to take a look at how to contain everyone else, especially the locals who make surprise contributions like Faundo and Salva,” he said.

Notes: The TNT KaTropa acquired guard Ed Daquioag from Rain or Shine yesterday in exchange for the KaTropa’s second round drafts for 2020, 2021 and 2022. Daquioag joins a TNT backcourt crew that also includes another fresh trade acquistion in Simon Enciso....Veteran Arwind Santos joined San Miguel Beer’s practice yesterday, marking his return from a team-imposed indefinite suspension. Santos was penalized by SMB for his involvement in a fight during team training last November, along with Kelly Nabong, Ronald Tubid and then import Dez Wells. He said the challenge for the new season is to “learn from his mistake and not repeat it.”

BARANGAY GINEBRA MERALCO
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