Paul Lee missed three straight triple attempts in the dying seconds of the game, summing up everything that went wrong with Magnolia Friday night.
Rain or Shine wasn’t exactly perfect either, but the Elasto Painters did enough to forge an 84-77 victory in Game 1 of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal showdown with the Hotshots at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We just had to stick to our defense,” said Javee Mocon, the Rain or Shine rookie who made a splash in his semifinal debut with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field to go with nine rebounds. “That’s been our core and that is what helped us get here.”
The Painters shot just 34 percent from the field (31-of-90) but their defense contributed to Magnolia’s 24 turnovers which Rain or Shine translated to 26 points.
But those points did not come in big bunches. Instead, the Painters used a series of micro runs to peel away in the last two periods.
Mocon’s last two points capped a 10-3 exchange that gave Rain or Shine a 58-50 lead late in the third quarter.
“I was just filling in whatever the team lacked,” Mocon told a television interview in Filipino after the game. “Kuya James [Yap] was off and I had to step up.”
But the Hotshots somehow fought back despite their offense hamstrung by hypothermic three-point shooting (2-of-22, 9 percent). Jio Jalalon made Magnolia’s first triple 31 seconds into the fourth and the Hotshots were within 63-61.
Beau Belga then flexed his muscles underneath—a couple of times, literally—and the Painters took a 73-63 edge, 8:52 to play.
Magnolia fought back to within four but Belga and Gabe Norwood each had a three and Mark Borboran chipped in a three-point play to give Rain or Shine an 82-74 breathing space with 4:03 remaining.
Lee finished with 15 points for Magnolia, but had just five in the second half.
Meanwhile, Phoenix Pulse and defending champion San Miguel Beer kick off their own best-of-seven semifinal duel on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena with Fuel Masters coach Louie Alas admitting they are in for a rough ride.
“They (the Beermen) are really a cut above the rest,” he told the Inquirer in Filipino. “Against TNT, they scored at will and their defense was good.”
The two teams clash starting at 6:30 p.m., with the Beermen hoping to keep alive their quest for a fifth straight Philippine Cup trophy.
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