Meralco is bracing for a worst case scenario in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup finals after star center Raymond Almazan strained his left knee in Game 3 against Barangay Ginebra Sunday.
While the Bolts are trying remain optimistic, coach Norman Black said the team is not counting out the possibility of Almazan missing the rest of the series.
"Let's hope that's not the case, but when I talked to him at halftime of the game, he couldn't move his leg. And being a former player myself, that's never a good sign," Black said after Meralco's 92-84 loss to the Gin Kings. "I'll try to be as positive as possible, and hopefully he'll be okay, but from being a player myself, having a swollen knee in the middle of a championship series is not something you can just bounce back from that easily."
Team manager Paolo Trillo said Almazan, who had two points and two rebounds in six minutes, is set to undergo an MRI at the Makati Medical Center.
Almazan sustained the injury midway through the opening quarter after a bad fall caused him to buckle to the floor while clutching his left knee. Bolts staff then carried the center to the locker room for diagnosis.
Meralco kept things close at the half and trailed by only one, but a third quarter surge by a Ginebra team that took advantage of Almazan's absence had the Bolts trying to keep up the rest of the way.
"We found out at halftime we probably would lose Raymond for the rest of the game and possibly for the rest of the series," Black said. "So it seemed like the guys were a little bit of down and lacked the energy, the intensity going to the third quarter.
"I don't know for sure how much they were affected by the news, but it seemed to affect them going to the third quarter. Ginebra did a good job of jumping on top of us immediately, taking advantage of it, and taking control of the game."
Black said Meralco will try to look for answers in the middle -- an area which will certainly be their top concern the rest of the series after Japeth Aguilar (23 points, seven rebounds) victimized a thin Bolts frontline in the second half.
"Our biggest concern, obviously, is the fact that when Raymond's not around, you saw what happened with Japeth, right? He pretty much ran wild out there on the court," Black said. "... And without (Almazan), 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."