MANILA, Philippines – Even with San Miguel staring at a 0-3 deficit in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals against Alaska, head coach Leo Austria does not want to risk fielding in injured center June Mar Fajardo in Game 4 on Sunday.
A loss to the Aces on Sunday night will mark the end of San Miguel's reign as the All-Filipino champions, but Austria insists they are not going to put Fajardo into the game "just for the sake of trying to extend the series."
"His range of motion is now 100% after undergoing a rehab session. He's been fitted for a knee brace, but he's still feeling some pain," Austria said of Fajardo, as quoted by PBA.ph. "He could be okay already in a week or two."
"I don't want to sacrifice that. I don't want to delay his recovery," he added.
(READ: First All-Filipino title in 16 years within reach for Alaska)
Fajardo suffered a knee injury in their series-clinching Game 6 win over Rain or Shine in the semi-finals, and has missed the first three games of the Finals. The San Miguel organization said he did not suffer structural damage in his ACL and PCL, and Austria initially announced at the start of the series that Fajardo may even return to action.
Those plans are now seemingly out of the question though Fajardo is expected to be at the Philsports Arena for Game 4, where he will likely be named the Best Player of the Conference.
"I will encourage him to be in his uniform for the fans and for his teammates," Austria said. "Sana maka-inspire, but I'm definitely not using him just for the sake of trying to extend the series."
As for the Finals, Austria said they are taking it "one game at a time" as they look to be the first team in the history of the league to overhaul a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series.
The Beermen have been able to keep in step with the Aces for most of the first three games, even leading by double digits in Games 1 and 3, only to fall apart in the final quarter whenever Alaska makes a run.
"Hindi lang kami maka-close out," Austria admitted. "Doon siguro namin nami-miss si June Mar."
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