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Alaska wins again

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Is San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo getting playing minutes more than what his body can take?

This question is slowly cropping up now that the two-time league Most Valuable Player has been grounded after suffering a knee injury during their semifinal series against Rain or Shine.

One opposing coach, who declined to be named said Fajardo’s playing minutes may be taking its toll noting the nature of the Cebuano’s playing position.

Majority of Fajardo’s playing minutes in the semifinal series against Rain or Shine required lots of physicality as he battled rivals Beau Belga, JR Quiñahan, Jewel Ponferada and Raymond Almazan inside the paint.

Prior to Game 6 when he injured his left knee, the Cebu native averaged of 39.8 minutes in the series, surpassing his 36.36 minutes per game during the elimination round (11 games), which was a career high for Fajardo.

“He took a lot of beating in that series with Rain or Shine, which is normal since he is the top priority on defense,” said the coach “Imagine four players rotating on just one guy, sometimes it was Belga-Quiñahan, or Almazan- Ponferada. These guys play about 20 minutes, while he (Fajardo) played almost 40 minutes.”

From his first season as SMB’s top rookie pick in the pro league, Fajardo’s playing minutes increased every year – from 26.87 (2013), to 35.49 (2004) and 34.85 (2015), transforming as the most dominant force in the PBA following his two MVP plums in 2014 and 2015 while guiding the team to two championships last season.

Fajardo injured his left knee when a smaller RoS defender in 6-2 Jireh Ibañes opted to box out the Beermen’s ‘gentle giant’ at the low post. Fajardo wasn’t expecting the hit, causing him to fall and twist his left knee in the third quarter.

“It’s likely to happen if he’s not used to playing 40 a game. He’s getting mobbed on defense, and that causes fatigue,” said another team official from another team. “Sometimes if you’re tired, you tend to relax. That’s what probably happened in Games 6 of the semifinals.”

SMB went on to win the game and the series to arrange a rematch versus Alaska in a best-of-seven championship showdown. Fajardo, however, was a no-show in Game 1 and the Beermen lost to the Aces, 91-100, last Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The team has released Fajardo’s MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) result, which showed an “intact ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament)”, and the SMB center only has swelling to deal with on his knee.