Hotshots mangle Bolts, move close to quarterfinal bonus
Paul Lee joked that his latest shooting exploit from three-point land inside PhilSports Arena may have something to do with the difficulty every member of the PBA community encounters every time the games are held at the Pasig City venue.
“What motivates me to shoot well is probably because of the difficulty finding a good parking slot,” Lee said in Filipino, referring to the five-minute walk from the parking area at a nearby mall that includes crossing a pedestrian lane in order to reach the arena.
It’s a journey Lee wouldn’t mind, as long as it would lead to a better route toward the Magnolia Hotshots’ bid for a championship in the Commissioner’s Cup. They made that journey shorter on Sunday when their 108-96 win over the Meralco Bolts put them one victory shy of getting the last twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Lee, who fired 27 points spiked by five triples, and the Hotshots improved to 9-2 with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters the only team standing in their way on Friday for the playoff incentive at the same venue.
“It’s one thing to have that opportunity, it’s another thing to take care of business the way these boys handled it,” said assistant coach Jason Webb, who continues to attend the customary postgame interview with Chito Victolero’s movements still limited due to an Achilles injury sustained in a pickup game with friends.
Magnolia holds its own destiny in the race for the other slot in the top two and the quarterfinal incentive, with Barangay Ginebra and Converge knocking on the door.
Bay Area already took the top seed and the first twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters after going 10-2 in the eliminations. The Dragons hold the tiebreaker over the Hotshots by virtue of winning their lone encounter last Nov. 19, also at PhilSports.
It was in that game that Lee also knocked down five threes, but his efforts weren’t enough for Magnolia to complete a comeback against Bay Area.
This time, however, Lee was on the winning side after hitting three of those in a huge third quarter that enabled Magnolia to score 47 points, a rarity for a team known for winning games through defense, or what Victolero usually describes as a “grinding game.”
It’s a breakaway that came after Meralco led 51-46 at the half and the Bolts wound up falling to 4-6 with a three-game winning run snapped. The Bolts stayed in ninth spot, barely behind the Elasto Painters (5-6).
Meralco still has a chance to force at least a playoff for No. 8, but may have to do it without Raymond Almazan after the lanky center twisted his right ankle while going for a layup early in the fourth. INQ