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    COLUMN: Game 3, not 5 seconds, is the talk around Magnolia

    Dec 17, 2022
    Calvin Abueva Magnolia vs Ginebra Game 2
    Game Two's controversial ending involving Calvin Abueva is a thing of the past.
    PHOTO: Jerome Ascaño
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    CHICAGO -- Did Calvin Abueva get away with a five-second heist at PhilSports Arena last Friday where Magnolia escaped with a dental floss-thin 96-95 victory over Ginebra?

    The answer lies in how fast or slow you count to five. It could also be determined when you start the count.

    We can argue about this until the cows come home but as far as Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero is concerned, the issue is not worth wasting time pondering about.

    "The PBA already made a ruling. We have moved on and have assigned all our focus to Game 3 tomorrow," he told me in a telephone interview.

    He's right. There's no crying in basketball.

    And there will be no tears for Ginebra, either. If my memory serves, the Gin Kings have benefited from errant, but not necessarily malicious, whistles over the years. Chalk this one as poetic justice.

    Instead of mourning Game Two over a controversial ending, it must be celebrated as a personal achievement for gunner Paul Lee and a communal triumph for the Hotshots' defense.

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    Staring at the barrel of an 0-2 series deficit with 5.1 seconds left to play, Lee fixed a broken play and tossed the game-winner just above the reach of Ginebra import Justin Brownlee's outstretched arms.

    Often mocked, and sometimes vilified, for allegedly not showing up in big playoffs moments, the 6-foot, 200 pound guard out of UE finally shed that monkey off his back.

    AT AGE, 33, LEE ALSO PROVED THAT HE’S NEVER TOO OLD TO PULL A MAGIC TRICK.

    "That's why he is a superstar," coach Chito told me, his voice ringing with pride. "That last play was designed for him. It got disrupted by Ginebra's defensive switches but Paul made it work."

    Victolero also credited his team's defense for clamping down on a very explosive team.

    "Defense is our bread and butter. It's hard to hold Ginebra under 100 points but that's what we need to do to win this semifinals series."

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    Having a really good import has also done wonders for Magnolia, which entered the playoffs with a 10-2 record. Somehow, under the shimmering lights of the postseason and the glimmer of Ginebra, people tend to forget that,

    "Nick (Rakocevic) has been great for us. He has done all the things you hope an import will do for a team on both ends of the floor," he said.

    After losing Game One, 87-84, this best-of-five showdown is now back to square one,

    Keep an eye on the scores. If games continue to be low-scoring, Magnolia has an excellent chance of booking a Finals ticket.

    If it becomes a prison break with the Gins scoring at will, Tim Cone's squad would be hard to beat.

    Who you got?

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      SAN MIGUEL DRAMA. If you're still not convinced that there is dysfunction around San Miguel Beer, you need to listen to what Chris Ross said in the aftermath of their Game Two loss to the Bay Area Dragons.

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      "We've been putting our energy in the wrong places, and we need to focus on the things we need to do," Ross, the sage-like voice of reason in the Beermen locker room, told reporters.

      Consider that a clue, people.

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      Game Two's controversial ending involving Calvin Abueva is a thing of the past.
      PHOTO: Jerome Ascaño
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