Meralco ‘never the same’ after Almazan injury in PBA Finals
MANILA, Philippines—Meralco coach Norman Black knew exactly when things started to fall apart for the Bolts in their third meeting with Ginebra in the PBA Governors’ Cup finals.
With the last two finals series going the Gin Kings’ way, the Bolts made changes in the personnel to address their gaps starting by adding nig man Raymond Almazan in the middle of the season.
Almazan’s additions seemed to have solved several problems for Meralco, but the 6-foot-7 center went down with an injury in Game 3 of the finals series.
“We faced a lot of adversity in the series, we lost our big man in the first quarter of the third game and we never seemed to be the same team again,” said Black after the Bolts’ 105-93 loss in Game 5 Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Almazan was playing big for the Bolts in Games 1 and 2 averaging 17.5 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks and that kind of production was what the Bolts sorely missed against in the last three games.
The series was tied at 1-1 before Games 3 but afterAlmazan’s injury, the Gin Kings managed to close things out in Game 5 thanks to Finals MVP Japeth Aguilar, Justin Brownlee, and Stanley Pringle were left unhindered.
“We were competitive, but once he got hurt, everything changed. I’m not blaming it on Raymond wasn’t there, but that was a big factor,” said Black.
Nevertheless, Black found consolation that his team drastically improved with the arrival of Almazan and the return of three-time Best Import Allen Durham.
The Bolts finished 11th in the Philippine Cup at 3-8 and ninth in the Commissioner’s Cup at 4-7 but were able to climb to 8-3, which was a tie for the best record with NLEX and TNT, and the finals.
“The addition of Raymond, Allein [Maliksi], and of course the return of AD gave us a more competitive team and gave us a chance to win a championship,” said Black. “We have to be very happy with that. It just shows that we improved our talent and talent wins games.”
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