PBA Finals: Shackled June Mar Fajardo key to Meralco success

PBA Finals: Shackled June Mar Fajardo key to Meralco success

June Mar Fajardo found himself in a bind on Sunday night, his on-court struggles among the things that doomed San Miguel in Game 3 of the PBA Philippine Cup’s championship series.

“That’s just the way it is,” he told reporters in Filipino on the heels of a 93-89 loss to the Meralco Bolts at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “Credit to them, they’ve played great throughout this series.”

Easily the heart and soul of the vaunted club, Fajardo was shackled to just 12 points and was limited to his season-low five field-goal attempts.

The reigning MVP, who is on pace to win his 10th Best Player of the Conference award, also accounted for seven of the team’s 15 turnovers as the Beermen slid to a 2-1 hole.

“Their defense is great. They’ve got plenty of bigs, and they are quick with their rotations so it’s been tiring [for me],” Fajardo said of the opposition, who has the likes of Raymond Almazan, rookie Brandon Bates, Norbert Torres and even Kyle Pascual taking turns in defending the most dominant player in the league.

CJ Perez, the other steady presence for San Miguel in this All-Filipino derby, wasn’t too keen on pinning it all on his star teammate’s woes.

“It’s just the free throws,” he said in a separate chat. “Those were the most crucial. We missed seven in the last [minutes], and that was the story.”

Five of those muffed freebies, following a 75-all deadlock in the payoff frame, were from Perez. And those were just as critical in San Miguel’s defeat, the spitfire guard insists.

A closer examination of the Game 3 stats sheet, however, showed that San Miguel lost in both the rebounds and assists race. The Beermen only had 50 boards against the Bolts’ 57, and 15 assists versus Meralco’s 22.

‘Improve our energy’

Fajardo, Perez, and co. were also behind the challengers in points in the paint (36-32), second-chance points (22-11), and error conversions (20-13).

“We really need to improve our energy to beat Meralco. We’re losing in rebounds—offensive rebounds. And their hustle [plays],” said Perez.

The crafty guard, however, is confident that those issues can be addressed in the two-day lull heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 at the same venue.“It’s going to be crucial as we don’t want to be crushed (with a big deficit),” he said of the return match.

“The two days will be big for our rest. And of course, June Mar since he’s really having a hard time. He needs rest. And of course, we need to adjust whatever that is we need to adjust,” Perez added.

If anything, Perez and Fajardo can take comfort in the fact that San Miguel has yet to lose back-to-back games this tournament. The Beermen suffered that only once this season when they stumbled against NorthPort and then Magnolia in the previous Commissioner’s Cup which they eventually ruled.

It will be truly interesting to see how the decorated San Miguel side recoups against a Meralco crew hell-bent on making the most out of their first-ever Philippine Cup finals. INQ

  • https://www.msn.com/en-ph/news/other/pba-finals-shackled-june-mar-fajardo-key-to-meralco-success/ar-BB1nYlP4

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