By Jan Carlo Anolin
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone’s game plan against Meralco is slowly coming into fruition, especially now that the Bolts likely lost one of their key cogs in the paint in Raymond Almazan.
Without Almazan, who hurt his left knee early in the first quarter of Game 3 at Smart Araneta Coliseum, the Kings’ guards saw a hole in Meralco’s defense and executed plays that involve driving hard to the basket and penetrating the paint.
“Yeah, definitely that was key for coach Tim Cone,” Stanley Pringle told reporters post game. “To penetrate, move the ball around, and get in the paint before we shot a three.”
Pringle, who chalked up 21 points, five rebounds and four assists in Ginebra’s 92-84 win against Meralco, added that the Kings are trying to be more disciplined in that type of offense since the Bolts seem to intentionally give them enough space for three-pointers.
Despite Almazan’s absence, the 6-foot-1 speedy guard won’t take out other Meralco locals from the picture, wary of what the substitutes can contribute.
Pringle singled out Cliff Hodge, known for his defensive intensity, as possible replacement for Almazan. Hodge only had two points in Game 3 but got six rebounds.
Even without Almazan, Pringle remains grounded and accepts the Bolts to be as good with Hodge.
Kings team captain LA Tenorio shared Pringle’s comments: “We’re getting the stops, we’re getting the assists. ‘Yun ang mantra namin – get everybody involved and move the ball.”
Ginebra pulled off a turnover-free third quarter with nine assists and outscored Meralco in the paint 42 to 34.
However, Tenorio said what worked in Game 3 might be ineffective the next time they face Meralco at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday.
Almazan’s MRI results were unavailable as of this writing.
Tenorio chipped in 11 points in Game 3 including a key three-pointer with 1:47 left in the payoff period for a 90-82 lead to go. He had four assists, two steals and a rebound.
Aside from Allen Durham and Chris Newsome, more Meralco locals have been producing numbers on both ends of the series, leading Tenorio to believe their next task is to contain almost every player who comes in.
“We have to credit all their players for being ready all the time,” Tenorio said, mentioning Bryan Faundo, Trevis Jackson and Nico Salva.
After Almazan went down, Faundo stepped up and tallied 10 points and two rebounds while Jackson contributed eight points and three rebounds. Both players did that in at least 13 minutes of play.
In Game 2, Salva, together with John Pinto, also showed the way for the Bolts who tied the series with a 104-102 thriller Friday.