MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra will try to close in on the PBA Governors' Cup crown when it faces off against the Meralco Bolts in Game 4 of the finals on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series on Sunday night, taking advantage of the absence of Raymond Almazan to beat the Bolts, 92-84.
The Meralco big man suffered a knee injury just six minutes into the game, and Ginebra went on to break the game open in the third quarter before fending off an Allen Durham-led fightback in the closing minutes.
"We kinda got our game going tonight," Ginebra coach Tim Cone said after their triumph. "This is the kind of way we play."
A huge third quarter keyed the victory for Ginebra. They outscored the Bolts, 35-16, in the pivotal period, with Stanley Pringle accounting for 17 points. The Gin Kings eventually led by as much as 23 points, before Durham brought the Bolts within five markers in the fourth quarter.
LA Tenorio was there to silence the Meralco rally, drilling a crucial three-pointer inside the final two minutes to give the Gin Kings the cushion they needed to grab the win.
The Gin Kings maintain that they cannot afford to relax, however, even with Almazan doubtful to play in Game 4 due to a lateral meniscal tear in his left knee.
"We expect on Wednesday, it will be another huge battle," Cone said. "I said it before – this is the kind of games you're gonna have."
"It's gonna be a pingpong, back-and-forth. Nothing's gonna come easy," he added.
Meralco coach Norman Black, meanwhile, is hoping to get more production from his reserves, particularly his big men, with Almazan doubtful to play.
Cliff Hodge and Bryan Faundo took most of Almazan's minutes in Game 3, but neither was able to limit Japeth Aguilar who went off for 23 points and seven blocks in Ginebra's win.
"What (Almazan) has done this conference is giving us an opportunity to match up with the big men of the other teams," said Black. "And without him, we almost got a little bit of a hole in the middle."
"So we just have to try to find a way to camouflage, or at least try to fix it," he added.
Game time at the Big Dome is at 7 p.m.
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