Fajardo braces for tough Game 4 – and maybe a bonus | Inquirer Sports
SCRATCH AND CLAW

Fajardo braces for tough Game 4 – and maybe a bonus

/ 05:20 AM August 28, 2022
June Mar Fajardo San Miguel PBA Finals

San Miguel Beer center June Mar Fajardo against the TNT defense in Game 3 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals. PBA IMAGES

The likelihood of another individual award to be added in his trophy room is the least of June Mar Fajardo’s focus at this point.

He wants nothing more than for his scars to mean something.

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“Wala namang namamatay sa kalmot (Nobody dies from getting scratched),” Fajardo joked after posting 27 points and 27 rebounds two nights ago when during a 108-100 overtime win that put the San Miguel Beermen up after three games of the PBA Philippine Cup championship series.

The scars on Fajardo’s arms are souvenirs of TNT’s hellacious defense on him and a reminder of what the San Miguel Beer cornerstone faces when his team guns for a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven affair on Sunday.

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“It’s a physical game out there and I have to stay composed,” the six-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) said in Filipino.

Those six MVP trophies, plus the fact that Fajardo has always flaunted a championship-first attitude, may be the reason why the Cebuano gentle giant has little concern of the proceedings that will precede the 6:05 p.m. tip-off for Game 4 of the series. The league will announce the winner of the Best Player of the Conference, an honor Fajardo has won a record eight times—and is very much on track for a ninth.

He and teammate CJ Perez have the closest chance at getting the award which usually serves as the first step for any player to be put in consideration for the Most Valuable Player at season’s end. 20th 20-20

Either player, however, is more eager to put San Miguel on the doorstep of a return to its place as rulers of the all-Filipino tournament.

Friday’s Game 3 win fashioned out at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City saw Fajardo registering his 20th career game of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, even against a Tropang Giga resolve that made things hard for him.

In fact, a large scratch on his right shoulder was proof of what Fajardo has been enduring since the series started exactly a week ago.

And the Tropang Giga would like to make things even harder for Fajardo, as coach Chot Reyes gets back on the sidelines with his team nursing a one-game deficit after back-to-back losses in the series. Reyes missed the last two games—both TNT losses—after focusing on his other role calling the shots for Gilas Pilipinas in its Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers away match against Lebanon.

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Assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga, who took charge of the squad, said Reyes’ return could help the Tropang Giga bounce back and reduce the series between the flaship teams of rival corporations into a best-of-three.

Reyes arrived on Saturday from Beirut, Lebanon and met with his coaching staff to map out plans for the crucial match.

“We’re down 1-2 and we got Coach Chot back and that’s a very big boost for us,” Arespacochaga said.Fajardo and Perez have been running first and second in the BPC derby since the end of the eliminations, with TNT’s Mikey Williams also in contention—albeit a long shot—as one of the five nominees.

The others in the race—Barangay Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar—are virtually out of the contest despite being among the top five in statistical points following their exit in the quarterfinals.

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TAGS: June Mar Fajardo, PBA Philippine Cup, San Miguel Beermen, TNT Tropang Giga
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