Paul Lee saves the day for Rain or Shine against NLEX
MANILA, Philippines — Paul Lee delivered key baskets down the stretch that allowed the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters to escape with a close 95-93 victory for their fourth straight win in the 2015 PBA Philippine Cup on Tuesday, November 25 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Lee scored 8 points in the last 1:29 minutes of the ballgame, including a triple that brought the Painters to within 92-93 with 28.2 ticks remaining as well as the go-ahead free throws in the ensuing possession, which turned an 87-93 deficit into a 94-93 edge with 21.5 seconds left.
Lee's three-pointer came after Asi Taulava was unable to receive a pass which resulted into a turnover with 31.3 seconds on the clock. NLEX employed the zone defense that plagued Rain or Shine for the entire fourth quarter but Lee was left wide open for the shot.
Beau Belga split from the line with 6.1 to go as Taulava tried for a potential game-tying one-hander in the final 4.5 seconds which was not even close.
"You can call that a great escape," remarked Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
"We got a break with Paul's three-point shot. They zoned that play when Paul made a 3-point shot and we got a good look there."
The Painters, who climbed to 6-2, nearly lost the contest after they squandered a double-digit halftime lead and were unable to break the Road Warriors' zone defense.
NLEX mounted a 13-0 run bridging the third and fourth periods to take an 81-77 advantage on an Enrico Villanueva turnaround bank shot with a little over 6 minutes to play.
Mark Borboran later gave NLEX its biggest lead at 89-82 on a triple with under 4 minutes remaining. But Rain or Shine leaned on its endgame experience to pull out the victory.
"Asi is a match-up problem for us we had to sag on him, that's why they got those 3-point shots," Guiao explained. "Maybe it's just our experience. We are more experienced than NLEX."
Lee led all Painters with 27 points on 3-of-8 triples, including 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
Gabe Norwood and Belga added 12 and 11 points, respectively, with Belga collaring down 7 boards.
For NLEX, Jonas Villanueva finished with 22 points and 9 rebounds as KG Canaleta wound up with 15 markers.
Taulava came up with 14 points and 16 rebounds as his team dipped to 3-5.
The Painters managed a victory despite missing 4 players from its line-up.
According to Guiao, Jeff Chan did not suit up due to flu, while Jeric Teng had back pains.
Jervy Cruz is still nursing a pulled calf muscle while Chris Tiu, whom Guiao said was supposed to play in this game, opted not to risk it after experiencing tightening of his hamstring.
"We're still on our winning run. We recovered from a bad start this conference," Guiao said. "And what we want to do is to end the eliminations on a strong note."
Rain or Shine's remaining opponents are the Alaska Aces and Barangay Ginebra.
Rain or Shine (95): Lee 27, Norwood 12, Belga 11, Ibanes 9, Cruz Jericho 9, Uyloan 7, Quinahan 6, Tang 5, Arana 5, Almazan 4.
NLEX (93): Villanueva J. 22, Canaleta 15, Cardona 14, Taulava 14, Borboran 11, Ramos 6, Villanueva E. 5, Arboleda 4, Baloria 2, Hermida 0, Raymundo 0, Apinan 0, Camson 0.
Quarter scores: 25-19, 57-45, 74-65, 95-93.