June Mar Fajardo treats rare off-the-bench role as calm before the storm
June Mar Fajardo says he was bothered by a stiff neck prior to the GlobalPort game. Jerome Ascano

JUNE Mar Fajardo treated San Miguel Beer’s final game of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup elimination round on Friday night as the calm before the storm – or in this case, the playoffs.

The reigning MVP came off the bench against GlobalPort and didn’t have to carry a heavy load as the Beermen still pulled off a 112-101 win to clinch a twice-to-beat spot in the quarterfinals.

Fajardo was actually nursing a stiff neck which bothered him as soon as he woke up on game-day, probably prompting coach Leo Austria not to start his prized ward.

“Siguro (kaya ako off the bench), stiff neck eh,” Fajardo said with a chuckle.

Still, the discomfort didn’t prevent the 6-foot-10 slotman from putting up solid numbers of 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, eight boards, three assists, and one block in 27 minutes.

Fajardo, though, vowed to even step his game up ahead of the bigger battles in their quest for back-to-back titles.

“Kailangan ihanda namin ang sarili namin kasi malalakas na ang makakalaban namin,” The Gilas cornerstone said. “Iba na ang intensity ng game kasi playoffs na so dapat ready kami.

“Dapat programmed na yung sarili namin,” he added.

One thing Fajardo feels the Beermen have to work on is their rebounding after GlobalPort hauled down 46 rebounds, four more than SMB.

Charles Rhodes collected just five boards as six-foot playmaker Alex Cabagnot surprisingly wound up with the most rebounds in the team with 10.

“Kasi yun ang wino-work out namin, na ‘di lang isang tao yung rerebound,” Fajardo said. “Ako, bina-box out ko yung big man. Kailangan team rebound.”

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