PBA Commissioner’s Cup

‘Saddest birthday’ for Paul Lee as Magnolia falls short of PBA glory once more

Delfin Dioquino

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‘Saddest birthday’ for Paul Lee as Magnolia falls short of PBA glory once more

ATTACK. Paul Lee in action for the Magnolia Hotshots in the 2023-24 PBA Commissioner's Cup.

PBA Images

On his 35th birthday, Paul Lee sees his quest for a fourth PBA title once again end in vain as Magnolia bows to San Miguel in their battle for the PBA Commissioner's Cup crown

MANILA, Philippines – Paul Lee turned 35 on Wednesday, February 14, with aspirations that Magnolia will live to fight another day.

Plans for a joyous celebration, though, fell through as the veteran guard saw San Miguel wrap up the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals after the Beermen disposed of the Hotshots with a come-from-behind 104-102 win in Game 6.

“Probably the saddest birthday,” said Lee, whose quest for a fourth PBA title once again ended in vain, with Magnolia being on the losing end of its last three finals appearances.

‘Saddest birthday’ for Paul Lee as Magnolia falls short of PBA glory once more

Their last championship coming in the 2018 Governors’ Cup, the Hotshots reached the finals of the 2019 and 2021 editions of the Philippine Cup, but they fell short of the grand prize against San Miguel and TNT, respectively.

A finals rematch with the Beermen proved no different.

Lee submitted his highest scoring performance of the conference in Game 6 as he churned out 25 points to go with 3 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench.

His fourth and final three-pointer for a 98-92 lead with under 2:30 minutes remaining gave Magnolia hope that it can send the best-of-seven series to a decider.

San Miguel, however, found its range from long distance when it mattered the most.

The Beermen answered with a decisive 11-2 run capped by three straight treys from Jericho Cruz, Chris Ross, and CJ Perez to grab a 103-99 advantage en route to securing a record-extending 29th title in franchise history.

“We lost our focus. We can say that San Miguel dominated us in the end,” said Lee. “They have championship experience as a team.”

Lee, though, still opted to look at the silver lining.

Often criticized for wilting on the big stage or missing action due to injuries, Lee delivered for the Hotshots all conference long as he suited up in all of their 22 games, averaging 11.8 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.6 rebounds.

He made his presence felt in the finals with norms of 12.3 points, 3 assists, and 2.3 rebounds.

“I have a lot of things to be grateful for. First of all, the game ended without anyone getting hurt. I also finished the series, which is something people doubt I will accomplish because I always get injured,” Lee said.

With the Philippine Cup beginning in two weeks on February 28, Lee aims to give his body – and mind – a breather before he returns to the grind.

“Take a rest, move on, prepare for the next conference,” said Lee. – Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.