Magnolia derails NLEX
With Paul Lee cranking up Magnolia’s offensive machine early and the defense holding on like it has all tournament long, the Hotshots leveled their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup Final Four series with NLEX at 1-1 after an easy 99-84 win at Mall of Asia Arena on Monday night.
Lee scored 10 of his 27 points in the first half and helped the Hotshots grab control for good as Magnolia seized momentum going into their Game 3 clash Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
Magnolia had NLEX in check all game, on the day it was confirmed that top defensive man Marc Pingris will be out for the rest of the season because of an ACL tear suffered in the Hotshots’ Game 1 loss on Saturday.
“His injury inspired us to play defense as best we could,” said coach Chito Victolero of Pingris, who will have surgery later this week and has been ruled out for the next six to eight months.
“We just need to sustain our energy, aggressiveness and focus more on our strength, which is defense,” Victolero said of his Game 3 plans where he hopes to again keep super rookie Kiefer Ravena and prolific backcourt mate Kevin Alas grounded.
Ravena had nine and Alas just six and their inability to wriggle out of the Magnolia defensive blanket made things even more difficult for NLEX.
Meanwhile, San Miguel Beer tries to all but wrap up its separate best-of-seven series opposite crowd-darling Barangay Ginebra on Tuesday when the Beermen gun for a 3-0 lead also at the modern Pasay venue.
The Gin Kings have their backs to the wall in the 7 p.m. contest where they would have to do without the seven-foot Greg Slaughter for the third straight game.
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