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Jan 16, 2020

Black says it's up to Almazan whether he'll play or not in Game 5

MERALCO coach Norman Black made it clear he's not making excuse on Raymund Almazan's health status for the Bolts' present woes in the PBA Governors' Cup finals against Barangay Ginebra.

But he can't help it pointing out how the injury of the lanky center has a major impact on the way the Bolts had played in the last two outings of the best-of-seven title series.

"You don't want to have an injury to a key player in the middle of a championship series.

Obviously, we were very competitive when he was there. (But) since he got hurt, we have not been competitive at all," said Black as Meralco stares at a 1-3 finals deficit following the team's 94-72 drubbing at the hands of the Kings in Game 4 Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Bolts have lost back-to-back games since Almazan went down with a meniscal tear in Game 3. And while he did suit up the following game, it was obvious, Meralco's top center is not 100 percent healthy, hobbling on the court to finish with 12 points and nine rebounds, but shooting 5-of-14 from the field.

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Meralco also lost the last two games by an average margin of 15.0 points after the first two outings of the series were decided by a winning margin of 3.0 points.

"I don't want to make excuses, it is what is it," stressed Black. "But I'm sure you guys can figure out that he's (Almazan) our main cog in our machine. And right now he's not playing 100 percent, and it's really affecting the team."

"But other guys should be able to step up and takes his place, or at least play better basketball than we did tonight."

The Meralco coach disclosed Almazan felt fine following the Game 4 loss.

"He's ok. I just talked to him and he said it can't get any worse," Black said of Almazan's injury. "But he has a pretty serious situation with his leg, something that has to be taken cared of once the conference is over."

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As to whether he'll keep Almazan playing for the must-win Game 5, Black said he's leaving it all up to his top center.

"I will leave that up to him. I'm not really sure. All I can tell you is that he said he did not re-injured it or he did not injure it anymore than it is," said the Meralco mentor.

"I always leave that decision up to him since it is his leg, and I really can't feel what he's feeling. So I trust the player when it comes to whether he'll play or not."
Game 5 is set Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena. (RG)