MAGNOLIA lived up to its status as the second seed this time as it cruised past NLEX, 99-84, to knot their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series at one game apiece on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Motivated by the absence of injured Marc Pingris, the undermanned Hotshots established a strong start that they sustained behind their trademark stingy defense to atone for a one-point loss in the series opener.
Paul Lee proved to be a thorn in the side of former coach Yeng Guiao as he presided over the blowout with 27 points, four boards, three assists, and three steals in less than 29 minutes.
“Credit to my players for the team effort,” Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said. “We adjusted a bit on defense, and on offense, we just tried to move the ball.”
“We just need to focus more on our strength, which is our defense,” he added.
Game Three is on Wednesday night at the Big Dome.
Held to just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting and forced to five turnovers in Game One, Lee regained his lethal form, eclipsing that total right in the first quarter where he fired 10 of his output, before finishing just four points shy of his season high.
Ian Sangalang added 18 points, eight rebounds, and committed just one turnover in over 34 minutes as he held the fort in the absence of Pingris, who’s feared to be out for the season due to an ACL injury he suffered in the series opener.
Mark Barroca chipped in 11 markers, including two on a jumper that gave the Hotshots their biggest lead at 98-80 late in the game.
Four more players scored at least eight points each for the Hotshots, who made 35 of their 70 shots for a solid 50 percent, while holding the Road Warriors to 41.9-percent shooting.
The Magnolia defense was most evident on Kiefer Ravena, who was limited to just nine points on seven attempts, and committed five turnovers in 22 minutes as a starter.
MAGNOLIA 99 — Lee 27, Sangalang 18, Barroca 11, Dela Rosa 10, Ramos 10, Jalalon 9, Simon 8, Reavis 4, Brondial 2, Gamalinda 0, Mendoza 0
NLEX 84 — Mallari 13, Quiñahan 13, Al-Hussaini 10, Ravena 9, Miranda 8, Alas 6, Fonacier 6, Tiongson 6, Soyud 5, Baguio 4, Taulava 4, Ighalo 0, Monfort 0
Quarterscores: 27-20, 48-39, 70-62, 99-84