ALREADY faced with the daunting task of facing Petron in the PBA Governors' Cup semifinals, Rain or Shine was dealt another blow when starting guard Paul Lee suffered a muscle tear that could keep him out of action for as long as three weeks.
An MRI scan done on Lee revealed the sophomore guard suffered a torn calf muscle on his right leg in the third quarter of their quarterfinal match against Globalport on Thursday night when he tried to go for the ball against Solomon Mercado.
“Paghabol ko lang kay Sol, ayun biglang may pumitik sa calf ko parang gomang napunit,” Lee bared after the Elasto Painters' 108-106 victory.
“Bad trip. Kung kalian dikdikan na ang labanan. Kung kailan mas kailangan ako ng teammates ko saka pa ako nagka-injury ng ganito. Ito ang worst conference ko sa PBA,” added the former Rookie of the Year.
Lee also sat out the latter part of Rain or Shine's title run in the Governors’ Cup last season after sustaining a dislocated left shoulder in Game Two of the finals, but he is hoping to return much earlier this time.
“Sana lang umabot pa talaga ako. Kasi gustong gusto kong lumaro. Dehado na nga kami sa kalaban tapos magiging kulang kulang pa kami,” he said.
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao said Lee's injury makes the Painters an even bigger underdog against the red-hot Blaze Boosters in their semifinal series.
“Underdog na kami. Lalo pa kaming nabaon sa pagkawala ni Paul. He can score kasi, he can create situations for his teammates,” Guiao said.
“Lalo ngayon na struggling kami offensively, kung 10 points lang bibigyan kami ni Paul. Yun ang mawawala. Kaso nga, nangyari 'yan eh. Wala tayong magagawa kungdi mag-adjust,” he added.
As it is, Guiao said they already face major match-up problems against a complete Petron team, more so since his Gilas players Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood have yet to regain peak form.
“Si Jeff (Chan) kasi ang sama pa rin ng shooting niya. Si Gabe (Norwood) wala pa rin yung scoring consistency,” said the multi-titled mentor, who now expects shock troppers TY Tang, Jonathan Uyloan and Chris Tiu to step up for the team.
“Mas malalim talaga nag hugot ko ngayon! Kaso wala tayong magagawa!”
On Petron, Guiao said: “Hindi sila invincible. But they are the best team right now. They will be hard to beat. They have depth, they have a good import. Their system under coach (Gee Abanilla) is working well, kumpleto sila. Healthy sila.
“Sa Petron, kasi kahit sino ang ipasok nila makakapag-deliver. Ang taas pa ng confidence level nila kasi ang haba na ng streak nila. Mahirap tibagin yun."
Still, Guiao stressed he is confident the Painters can find a way to bring down the in-form Boosters.
"I think we can find a way to beat them,” he said. “What’s good for us going into the series is wala sa amin ang pressure. Nasa kanila. Sila ang tinitignan ng lahat na manalo. I just hope the pressure gets to them.”
If Guiao is looking for inspiration, he needs only to look back on his Red Bull squad's 4-2 series win over San Miguel (now Petron) in the 2001 Commissioner’s Cup which it pulled off after losing key players Kerby Raymundo and Junthy Valenzuela to injuries.
“Yun ang pwede kong ibigay na example sa lahat, na dati mayroong ganitong sitwasyon rin na underdog na naipanalo … so hindi rin imposible na maipanalo ito ngayon,” Guiao said.