By Jonas Terrado
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. — Meralco vs Ginebra
(Ginebra leads series 2-1)
Game 1: Ginebra 91, Meralco 87
Game 2: Meralco 104, Ginebra 102
Game 3: Ginebra 92, Meralco 84
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel hopes to cash in on Raymond Almazan’s injury and gain a commanding 3-1 lead over Meralco in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Kings look to put a stranglehold on the best-of-seven title affair and once again capitalize on the absence of Almazan, who suffered a lateral meniscal tear on his left knee in Game 3.
Tipoff is set after the 7 p.m. announcement of the Best Player of the Conference and Best Import awardees.
While LA Tenorio had said that Ginebra must capitalize on Meralco missing its major inside presence, his teammates believe the Bolts have the capability to play better even without Almazan.
“Definitely missing Raymond hurt them a bit,” said Ginebra guard Stanley Pringle. “But they’re used to playing with Cliff (Hodge) coming in there and we expect them to just be as good.”
Hodge and Bryan Faundo are likely to fill in for Almazan as his absence could either make or break the Bolts’ chance of being competitive in the best-of-seven title affair.
Meralco used Hodge for most of Meralco’s semifinal series win over TNT KaTropa side that had its bigs play the perimeter while Faundo gave quality minutes during the last two games of the Finals.
“Anytime you lose a player the caliber of Raymond, it definitely gotta be hard on the team but the next man gotta be ready to play,” said Meralco import Allen Durham.
Almazan has proven to be the difference maker Meralco hoped would enable them to beat Ginebra after two failed tries in the Finals, averaging 17.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the first two games.
He had made things tough for counterparts Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter in the paint and for perimeter players like Justin Brownlee and Stanley Pringle before going down with the injury.
His absence played a major part in Ginebra’s pullaway in the second half of Game 3, though Meralco made a failed attempt at making a rally late in the contest.
“I think Meralco did a good job. Nung nawala siya nag-step up the rest of the guys,” said Aguilar. “Mahirap talaga kalaban Meralco kaya kailangan di kami magpapahinga, every play kailangan maging aggressive kami.”