Meralco’s manpower crisis continues as it is set to miss the services of Raymond Almazan and a handful of players when it battles Magnolia in Game 4 of their 46th Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series on Sunday.
Bolts head coach Norman Black said Almazan and three other players will still be sidelined when they shoot for the equalizer at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Almazan, the gangly 6-foot-8 defensive machine, has yet to recover from a sprained ankle and was out of the rotation when the Bolts booked a 91-86 win over the Hotshots in Game 3 last Friday.
Also in sickbay are 2020 PBA Rookie of the Year Aaron Black as well as role players as Trevis Jackson, Jammer Jamito and Raymar Jose.
Black is still nursing a hand injury while Jackson and Jamito were placed under the league’s health and safety protocols.
“Judging by the way he moved in warm-ups yesterday, I would say that it is very doubtful that he (Raymond) will play in Game 4,” Black told the Daily Tribune.
“Aaron is definitely not playing, Travis and Jammer will be out for two weeks.”
Black, a grand-slam mentor who did a marvelous job rotating the nine players in uniform in Game 3, said it would take a lot of hard work and determination to replicate their success.
After all, the loaded Magnolia core of Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, Calvin Abueva and Jio Jalalon is expected to storm back in Game 4 to gain enough momentum to wrap up the series in Game 5.
He said the best thing they can do now is to fight the Hotshots one game, one quarter and one possession at a time despite their depleted – but very hungry – roster that still has Chris Newsome, Bong Quinto, Reynel Hugnatan, Nard Pinto and Allein Maliksi.
“It’s a shame, but we need to win if we want to stay in the series. We’re still down 2-1 so basically they (Hotshots) have the advantage,” Black added.
“We just have to continue to put in the effort to try to tie up the series.” IAN SUYU