Pingris, Lee say lockdown defense - more than scorching offense - behind Star resurgence
Defense is the name of the game for Star, says Marc Pingris. Jerome Ascano

THE Star Hotshots are gradually reverting to their old form that allowed them to collect championship trophies including a grand slam a few years back.

And while the searing offense has taken the headlines with a string of blowout wins, Marc Pingris believes a Star resurgence that led to its return to the semifinals — a first since the 2015 PBA Governor’s Cup under then-coach Tim Cone — is because of the team’s renewed commitment to playing lockdown defense.

"Kaya nandito kami ngayon sa semis dahil sa defense namin. Ganoon kami ka-confident, na bumabalik yung dati naming team dahil sa defense namin," said Pingris, who finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in Monday's 91-71 victory over the Fuel Masters for a sweep their Philippine Cup best-of-three quarterfinals series. 

Paul Lee, who was traded to the Hotshots from Rain or Shine before the season, couldn't agree more. 

"Pag maganda depensa namin, yung opensa namin gumaganda eh. Di naman namin sinasadya na ganun yung mangyari pero pag nakaka-stop kami, we're having fun eh. So yun. Pag dumipensa kami, malayo yung mararating namin," said Lee, who had a team-high 17 markers on Monday.

[See Star sweeps Phoenix to reach semis]

Pingris even likened current Star coach Chito Victolero to their former coach Cone, as both men always preach defense. 

"Si Coach Chito at Coach Tim, defensive coaches sila. Iisa ang style nila. Sinasabi sa amin ni coach Chito na kung gusto namin na makuha yung panalo, kailangan naming dumepensa," said Pingris after the Hotshots' sixth straight victory dating back to the elimination round.

"Yun din ang sinasabi ni Coach Tim, na kung gusto namin makapunta ng finals, kailangan naming dumepensa. So parang same. Kumbaga, same style," he added.

Both players, though, hope this defensive mentality will also translate into a return trip to the finals.

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But before that, they have to go through either Alaska or Ginebra in the semifinals. 

“We need to be ready lang. We need to play Star Hotshots basketball. Wala kaming kailangang gawing kakaiba. Basta trust each other lang. Trust the system, and we need to play hard," said Lee. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros