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PBA: Fajardo rues pounding but still focused

In just two games in the semifinal series against Rain or Shine, San Miuel Beer center June Mar Fajardo – the reigning back-to-back MVP – has logged in an average of 40 minutes.

While he is capable of playing long minutes, Fajardo has taken tremendous pounding by the Elasto Painters defenders – from the banging of bodies and hacking of his arms.

“Napapagod din naman ako,” said Fajardo after San Miguel 97-105 defeat to ROS in Game 2 that leveled the best-of-seven showdown to 1-1 last Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Fajardo, however, understands that he needs to focus on playing, saying that the pounding he has received is not a reason for him to stop doing what he’s capable of doing for the team.

“Hindi naman rason yun. Focus lang ako sa game, laruin ko lang yung usual game ko,” added Fajardo.

So far, Fajardo has averaged a conference best 37 points and 17.5 rebounds in the semifinals. His field goal percentage did not change, shooting an identical 13-of-22 in Games 1 and 2.

The most glaring in Fajardo’s stat line was his free throw shooting. In Game 1, he converted 10-of-12, but it got worse in Game 2 when he missed nearly half of his 22 attempts from the stripe.

More than the beating, SMB mentor Leo Austria said he is more concerned with the playing minutes of Fajardo.

“I’m really worried about June Mar. I don’t want him to play longer inside,” said Austria, explaining that he even planned to rest Fajardo in the fourth period of Game 2 but he opted to stay with him when SMB made a rally.

Despite the situation Fajardo is in, Austria said they would continue to turn to their top scoring option.

“He’s our priority, he’s the problem of our opponent,” said Austria.