The halftime talk in the Barangay Ginebra dugout Sunday centered on pouncing on Raymond Almazan's absence, and the Gin Kings did just that to pull off a 92-84 win for the 2-1 lead versus the Meralco Bolts in the PBA Governors Cup finale.
With Almazan likely to be out for the rest of the series with a lateral meniscal tear, it can be expected that coach Tim Cone will unleash a lot more incursions of his big men at the paint.
That's the expectation in Game Four to tip off at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The question is how Meralco coach Norman Black will deal with the situation as they try to avert falling on a 1-3 hole in the best-of-seven series.
A tremendous force against a crippled Meralco side in the second half in Game Three, the Kings aren't expected to slow down in Game Four as they seek to widen their distance with the Bolts and move on the cusp of regaining the Governors' Cup throne they won in 2016 and 2017.
Cone wishes the best for Almazan, including his quick recovery. His continued absence, however, would prompt Cone to push his troops to capitalize and keep control of the series.
"We talked about it at halftime (Sunday). I said this is the time for Japeth (Aguilar) and Greg (Slaughter) that can really make a lot of forays in the paint, get some seals with Raymond out. Big difference. One-point game at halftime, and then, he went out really in the third and we ended up beating them and got up by 20 points," said Cone.
Meralco team manager Paolo Trillo confirmed the MRI results showing lateral meniscal tear on Almazan's left knee.
"We'll talk to him and assess," said Trillo.
But even if he can play, a half-healthy Almazan could be an easy prey for the Ginebra bigs, including Aguilar who's on a roll in the series.
Aguilar was good for 23 points on top of seven blocks and four rebounds in their Game Three victory. In their 91-87 win in the series opener, the 6-foot-9 center/forward collected 16 markers, six rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Meanwhile, the Bolts missed Sunday their No. 1 inside weapon who averaged 17.5 points and 10 rebounds in the series' first two games.
Cliff Hodge and Bryan Faundo definitely have to step up and the Meralco gunners must rediscover the shooting they showed in Game Two to be able to compete.
"We will try to find a way to camouflage it or try to fix it," said the Meralco mentor. (SB)