Kings eyeing 3-1 lead vs Almazan-less Bolts

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    COSTLY DRIVE: It was this strong move to the basket that caused Raymond Almazan’s injury as he injured his left knee following an awkward landing. The meniscal tear would probably force Meralco’s starter out for at least tonight’s Game 4.
    COSTLY DRIVE: It was this strong move to the basket that caused Raymond Almazan’s injury as he injured his left knee following an awkward landing. The meniscal tear would probably force Meralco’s starter out for at least tonight’s Game 4.

    GINEBRA has always believed it could beat Meralco anew in their PBA Governors Cup title duel.

    That confidence has just rose several notches higher, according to Kings veteran playmaker LA Tenorio.

    “Unti-unti na kaming nagkakaroon ng kompiyansa and belief na kaya naming talunin itong team na ito,” Tenorio told Malaya-Business Insight.

    “Going into this series may mga doubts talaga kami sa sarili namin. ‘How can we beat this strong Meralco team?’ They’re strong not offensively but defensively. Alam naman natin na iyon ‘yung mantra nila. So we had to find ways kung papaano kami makaka-score, kung paano namin ma-bi-beat depensa nila.”

    Ginebra did last Sunday, resulting in a 92-84 win for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

    “Napakalaking bagay sa amin nito. Not only the win but how we won the game,” Tenorio said after the game which saw Ginebra outscore Meralco 35-16 in the third quarter to lead by as big as 23 points before easily holding off the Bolts in the endgame.

    The Kings now hope to carry the momentum over from that game tonight as they try to make it an even more imposing two-game lead should they prevail anew in Game 4 of the series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    Another win and Ginebra would move closer to reprising its previous conquest of Meralco during their 2016 and ‘17 finals meetings in the same season-ending tilt.

    Still, coach Tim Cone stuck to his earlier statement of the series “going back and forth” and said his Kings are bracing for another titanic struggle tonight.

    “We expect on Wednesday it’ll be another huge battle,” Cone said after Game 3. “Nothing’s gonna come easy.”

    Cone downplaying his team’s momentum stems from the way Meralco managed to threaten within five points late in that game.

    “That fourth quarter is the type of game we should be playing,” said Bolts import Allen Durham, who led that fightback.

    “Everybody’s just got to believe and have that confidence in themselves and I think we could still make this a series.”

    Still, most indications point to a Ginebra win.

    Meralco starting center Raymond Almazan is expected to miss the game–and at worst the rest of the series–due to a left knee injury he suffered early in Game 3.

    In a text message, Bolts team manager Paolo Trillo yesterday said the beanpole slotman suffered a lateral meniscal tear on his knee, adding they will talk to Almazan and assess whether he can play tonight.

    Meralco coach Norman Black has braced for a worst-case scenario, saying his team will just try to “camouflage” its lack of a certified inside presence like Almazan “or at least try to fix it.”

    Almazan has been averaging 17.5 points, 11 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the series. He is also the main reason why the likes of Japeth Aguilar, Stanley Pringle and Justin Brownlee would have second thoughts about venturing inside with him defending.

    The Kings have shown what they could do without Almazan, with Pringle repeatedly slashing his way to the basket for layups and floaters that made up the bulk of his 21 points, including 17 in the third period that keyed the breakaway.