Paul Lee was far from his usual form Wednesday but was still a key factor in the Magnolia Hotshots' 82-74 Game 5 win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. Magnolia has reeled off three straight victories to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Philippine Cup semifinals.
Lee finished the night scoreless but didn't really need to score to prove his value to the team. He may have wound up listless with 0-of-8 shooting from the field, but his efficiency spoke otherwise (+11).
"He knew it's not about the points but his leadership. His presence alone is important," Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said. "How he draws defense, how he leads the team. I know how humble he is. He can score anytime but he wants his teammates to also have the confidence."
That's exactly what happened.
Lee attracted Rain or Shine's defense, giving the other Hotshots enough space to operate. Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon finished with 14 points apiece and combined for 11 rebounds and six assists.
"It was huge for us (Lee's leadership). It gave the other players confidence," Victolero said.
It was Rafi Reavis, though, who drilled in the crucial baskets in the homestretch, the last of which gave the team an 80-74 buffer with 38.8 seconds remaining.
Rain or Shine had plenty of chances to turn the game around. But James Yap missed a pair of 3-pointers, while Ed Daquioag muffed another before Jalalon sealed the victory with two freebies for the final score.
"We just tried to be consistent playing Magnolia basketball. We were focused more on our defense and in limiting their score to under 90 points. Defensively, I'm so proud and happy," Victolero said.
Gabe Norwood paced Rain or Sine with 15 points built on three triples. Yap and Mark Borboran added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
MAGNOLIA 82 - Barroca 14, Jalalon 14, Reavis 9, Brondial 9, Sangalang 8, Herndon 8, Dela Rosa 7, Ramos 7, Melton 6, Lee 0.
RAIN OR SHINE 74 - Norwood 15, Yap 12, Borboran 11, Daquioag 9, Torres 8, Nambatac 6, Belga 5, Rosales 3, Mocon 3, Ahanmisi 2, Ponferada 0.
Quarterscores: 16-10, 40-34, 58-57, 82-74.
The last time Lee ended up scoreless was during the team's conference opener against TNT KaTropa.
Magnolia exploited its size advantage, scoring 40 points in the paint while the Elasto Painters only had 16 from the shaded area.
Game 6 is on Friday at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.