Monday, December 17, 2012

PBA: Lee lights it up as Rain or Shine eliminates Ginebra


Paul Lee poured in 25 points, and led the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in a huge third quarter run to bury Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 102-89, to claim the last remaining PBa Philippine Cup semifinals berth, Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Lee exploded for 14 points in the third quarter to give the Elasto Painters the separation they needed going into the fourth quarter. The Kings tried their best to rally and make the game close, but Lee and Gabe Norwood repeatedly quelled runs by Ginebra.

Down big in the closing minutes of the game, Ginebra veteran Jayjay Helterbrand sank a three at the two minute warning, but it was followed by a couple of free throws from Norwood. Billy Mamaril, who was having a career game, then scored on a put-back to keep Ginebra’s hopes alive but Norwood again sank another set of free throws for a 95-84 Rain or Shine lead with only 1:25 left in the game.

Free throws from Norwood, Lee, and Chris Tiu finished off the Kings and arranged a rematch of last season’s Governor’s Cup Finals against the San Mig Coffee Mixers.

“We had to do it the hard way,” Rain or Shine head coach Yeng Guiao said. “We took the longer road but we made the destination.”

The Elasto Painters canned nine triples, most of which were uncontested shots from the corners.

Paul Lee avoids the sideline after stealing the ball away from Jayjay Helterbrand. Photo by KC Cruz 

 “You learn a lot of things from setbacks,” said Guiao. “In game 2, they surprised us with their zone defense, but in this game, we were lucky enough to hit shots outside because of the openings the zone gave us.”

Mark Caguioa made his entry to the game with 6:50 left in the first quarter but he received a rude welcome from the Elasto Painters as Jeff Chan and Quinahan connected on a drive-and-dish play to tie the game at 11.

Caguioa hit a three for his first basket in the game to give the Kings a 18-14 advantage with 5:14 left in the first quarter. Chan scored on the other end but Tenorio sank another three for a 21-16 count.

Rain or Shine went on a late first quarter run with Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga combining for eight straight points to swing the tide to their favor 27-25 with 1:36 left. However, it was Rudy Hatfield, hero of the second game of the series, who wrote the final chapter of the quarter. He knotted the count at 27 with an undergoal stab off a perfectly-executed inbounds play.

A couple of corner pocket triples from Paul Lee and Norwood gave the Elasto Painters a 34-30 lead early in the second period. Another triple from Ronnie Matias gave the Elasto Painters their first double digit lead at 41-30, but the Kings unleashed a quick 13-0 run led by Caguioa and Chris Ellis. A jumper from Jervy Cruz at the 1:58 mark of the second quarter finally stopped the bleeding for Rain or shine and tied the game at 43-all.

Ginebra’s Willie Wilson and Jayjay Helterbrand matched Belga’s four points in the final minute for a 47-47 count at the half.

The Elasto Painters again survived a game with gunner Jeff Chan not scoring in double digits. Chan only managed four points on a miserable 1-of-9 from the field but this was barely felt as the rest of the team stepped up.

“That’s really the design of the team; when one guy is not hitting his shots, the other guys need to step up,” said Guiao. “Yun lang naman ang strength namin. We don’t have superstars. Even Paul Lee is not yet considered a superstar, but we have a team that is tough mentally and physically.”

Lee started the second half like a house on fire, stringing together 10 points in the first four minutes. A triple from Lee at the 7:48 mark of the third quarter gave the Elasto Painters a 60-51 lead.

Another basket from Matias with 6:16 left in the third stretched the Elasto Painter lead to 15 at 66-51. Lee then threw lob pass which Norwood converted into a one-handed dunk that could very well be the play of the year. Four more points from Lee and Norwood gave the Elasto Painters a 72-51 cushion.

True to their never-say-die mantra, the Kings then countered with a 13-4 run to keep their heads above water. The Kings faced a 12-point deficit going into the final period in the win or go home match-up.

In the crucial stretch of the third quarter when Ginebra was making its run, Guiao ride it out with his current lineup instead of calling on Lee to quell the tally. But the former UE Red Warrior said that he was completely fine with the decision.

“Tiwala naman ako sa teammates ko,” Lee said. “Sa mga ganun, hindi namin pinapakialaman si coach kasi may sarili siyang diskarte. Kapag pinahabol nung mga naglalaro yung kalaban, dapat bahala rin silang ayusin iyon.”

A Mamaril jumper at the 8:48 mark of the fourth was followed by a free throw from Caguioa to cut the Elasto Painter lead to seven, but Lee was reinserted back into the lineup and quickly announced his return with another corner pocket three for an 82-72 Rain or Shine lead.

A three from Tenorio with a little over four minutes left in the game gave the Kings some life and sliced the Rain or Shine lead down to nine. However, Norwood took it right back with his own three and Rodriguez added a putback for a 90-76 Elasto Painter lead with only 3:21 left in the game.

Woes from the free throw line aided in the demise of the Kings. They converted only nine of their 21 attempts with Maierhofer sinking only 3-of-8. Caguioa’s 60% shooting from the stripe was actually the best percentage among the Kings. The loss will be a painful pill to swallow specially for Mamaril who scored 20 points, grabbed ten rebounds, and swatted six shots all in 31 minutes of play.

Lee and the rest of the Elasto Painters are salivating for another series with the San Mig Coffee Mixers. Lee is especially hyped up because he was not on the floor when Rain or Shine won their first championship in franchise history.

“Yung motivation ko yung di ko natapos yung series,” Lee said. “Siguro ito yung chance ko na magpakita.”

Asked about his predictions on the upcoming match, Lee simply said that this series will be exciting. “Maganda itong series na ito,” he said. “Panigurado maghahanda sila, babawi sila. Siguradong bakbakan ito.”


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