RAYMOND Almazan has been handed the daunting task of defending June Mar Fajardo in their 2022 PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series.
On Wednesday, Almazan turned the tables on the six-time league MVP as he turned up his offense once again, leading Meralco to a 111-97 win over San Miguel that tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
Almazan scored a series-high 17 points including 12 in the third period when the Bolts pulled away to leads that reached as high as 22. The 33-year-old nailed his only three of the game to make it a 69-57 advantage in the third.
Fajardo scored 21 points for the Beermen, 13 from the free-throw line. He was held to nine attempts.
Almazan scored 16 points in the Game One loss but was quiet in the next two games with productions of only seven and four apiece in each match.
Meralco coach Norman Black said the team made adjustments with San Miguel leaving the bigs wide open from the outsie.
“We made some adjustments on how to attack their defense because their defense has been pretty good in the series. It worked out for us. Offensively, we were able to get the ball to our bigs. Our bigs had a lot of confidence tonight. They took their shots. They made their shots, Raymond especially,” said Black.
Almazan shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field in the third as the Bolts shot 11-of-15 in that quarter.
Almazan was happy that his offense clicked in Game Four, but takes no credit for the defensive job on Fajardo which he said is done by a platoon of Meralco defenders.
“Mahirap talaga bantayan si June Mar. Hindi lang ako. ‘Yung mga coaches namin, pine-prepare kami lahat ng bigs – Kyle [Pascual], ako, si Noy [Baclao], it was a team effort talaga," said the former Letran big man.
"Hindi namin talaga maiistop ng one man si June Mar. Kailangan talaga namin magtulong-tulong at maniwala sa game plan nila coach na mai-stop namin si June Mar,” added Almazan.
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