The Meralco Bolts came in with Raymond Almazan. The Barangay Ginebra Kings responded by playing their usual deadly game.
The Bolts ripped the game apart with big salvos in the middle quarters and pulled off a 94-72 win to move on the brink of reclaiming the PBA Governors' Cup diadem at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday.
Coach Tim Cone and his troops take their first of three cracks at wrapping up a third Governors' Cup crown in four years in Game Five Friday at the MOA Arena in Pasay City. Game Six and Game Seven, if necessary, will be played at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
"Obviously Raymond Almazan's injury has changed the complexion of the series. He showed with courage but he's far from 100 percent healthy. He was limping up and down the floor and not moving well laterally," said Cone.
"We assume he'll get better and more healthy as the series goes on. But obviously his injury is a big blow to Meralco," Cone added.
Enduring a lateral meniscus tear, Almazan did provide inside presence and numbers for the Bolts with 12 points and nine rebounds in 27:51 of action.
But the Kings were so inspired, motivated and fired up, they easily shrugged off whatever the Almazan comeback brought in for Meralco.
Cone said they dealt with the situation playing "methodically."
"We're methodical in breaking them down offensively. And we held Allen Durham to eight at the half, and I think that's amazing," said Cone.
The Kings built momentum in the second quarter and pulled away in the third behind a torrid shooting lustily cheered on by the Ginebra diehards.
Justin Brownlee lost another Best Import race to Allen Durham but the Ginebra import just won't be beaten in the fight for what counts in a championship tussle.
He piled up 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and stood as lead light in their breakaway en route to the 20-point victory and the commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Almazan bravely plunged back into action though obviously hurt, but the Kings made an effort to practically cancel out the effect of the Meralco center's return.
The Kings even played their best game in the series, asserting themselves to lead by as many as 27.(SB)
Ginebra 94 - Brownlee 27, Pringle 21, Thompson 16, Tenorio 8, Dillinger 7, Aguilar 5, Caguioa 5, Mariano 3, Slaughter 2, Caperal 0, Chan 0, Dela Cruz 0.
Meralco 72 - Durham 21, Newsome 12, Almazan 12, Quinto 7, Salva 6, Maliksi 6, Caram 4, Amer 2, Hodge 2, Faundo 0, Jackson 0, Pinto 0.
Quarterscores: 14-14, 42-31, 70-55, 94-72.