RAIN or Shine—and Paul Lee—certainly showed they are too good a team to bungle another golden opportunity.
With Lee at the firing end, the Elasto Painters did what they couldn’t do two nights ago, connecting from the outside with cold-blooded impunity to rip Barangay Ginebra, 102-89, last night and advance to the Final Four of the PBA Philippine Cup.
The heady and creative point guard was at his best when the Painters broke away early in the third, shooting 14 points in the quarter to fuel a dizzying sequence that had the Painters racing to leads of as many as 21 points that quieted a huge pro-Ginebra crowd at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Lee made his first four three-point shots to finish with a career-high-tying 25 points, and Gabe Norwood backed him up solidly with 21 as the Painters advanced opposite San Mig Coffee with a 2-1 series win over the Gin Kings to seal a repeat of the last season’s Governors’ Cup title series.
Rain or Shine trailed for the last time at 51-49 before Lee backstopped a crippling 23-0 tear, tying the third all-time high mark of runs in the league, to put the game away.
That series, as well as the Talk ‘N Text-versus-Alaska pairing, will start on Wednesday, also at the Big Dome with both scheduled as best-of-seven affairs.
Rain or Shine and San Mig weren’t supposed to start their series until Thursday, but a mix-up with Mall of Asia Arena management headed by Arnel Gonzales concerning Korean rapper Psy’s concert had the PBA pulling out of its schedule on that day.
Lee scored seven straight points to open up the third and had 10 of the Painters’ first 13 as the Painters scooted away from a game Ginebra crew that actually erased an 11-point second-quarter deficit to tie it up at 47 at the half.
“Again, we had to do it the hard way (a rubber match),” coach Yeng Guiao told reporters. “You learn a lot of things from setbacks (like in Game 2). We were kind of surprised with the zone they threw at us and we prepared for that. We’re lucky enough to hit our shots.”
The Painters equalled their Game 2 conversions from three-point range with nine, but from 22 attempts compared to Friday night’s 33. And the team shot 47 percent from the field.
After racing to a 72-51 lead, Guiao rested Lee and Norwood, giving an opening to the Kings who came within 72-79 after a charity split by Mark Caguioa with under eight minutes left.
But Lee and Norwood returned to repulse the rally with Lee hitting a triple that again put the Painters in total command.
“No,” Lee said when asked if he felt the jitters when he was on the bench and Ginebra came back. “I have full trust in my teammates.”
RAIN OR SHINE 102—Lee 25, Norwood 21, Cruz 12, Belga 11, Matias 9, Tiu 7, Rodriguez 6, Quinahan 6, Chan 5, Tang 0, Arana 0.
GINEBRA 89—Tenorio 20, Mamaril 20, Caguioa 14, Maierhofer 11, Helterbrand 9, Ellis 4, Wilson 4, Hatfield 4, Taha 3, Labagala 0.
Quarters: 27-27, 47-47, 76-64, 102-89