PAUL Lee scored 10 of his 27 points in a gripping finish to rescue Rain or Shine from the jaws of defeat against NLEX, 95-93, in a PBA Philippine Cup game on Tuesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Gilas Pilipinas star scored all but five of the Elasto Painters final 15 points to deny an NLEX team that looked poised for a famous win after it clawed back from 13-points down to take a six-point lead in the endgame.
The Road Warriors were still ahead, 93-89, with 40 seconds left when Lee drilled a 25-foot three-pointer and added two free throws to give the Painters back the upperhand, 94-93, with 21 seconds remaining.
Beau Belga took over from there, hitting a free throw and playing tough defense on NLEX go-to guy Asi Taulava to deny the behemoth twice inside the shaded lane.
“You can call that (win) a great escape,” said a relieved Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao. “We got the break with Paul’s last three-point shot. They (Road Warriors) zoned us when Paul made that play, we just got lucky.”
Guiao admitted they struggled when the Road Warriors began connecting on their three-point shots to charge back from a 65-74 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Nino Canaleta and Mark Borboran combined for four of the team’s six three-pointers in the fourth quarter alone as NLEX seized control, but the Road Warriors wilted in the face of Lee’s fourth-quarter heroics.
“They came back hard at us. They started hitting their three-point shots, while getting the kick outs from the post play of Asi,” said Guiao.
Lee finished with a season-high in points to go with six rebounds and three assists to lead Rain or Shine, which played without Jeff Chan (flu), Jeric Teng (back spasm), Chris Tiu (hamstring) and Jervy Cruz (partial calf tear).
Jonas Villanueva led the Road warriors with 22 points while Canaleta and Taulava added 15 and 14, respectively.
Rain or Shine 95 - Lee 27, Norwood 12, Belga 11, Ibanes 9, Cruz Jericho 9, Uyloan 7, Quinahan 6, Tang 5, Arana 5, Almazan 4.
NLEX 93 - Villanueva J. 22, Canaleta 15, Cardona 14, Taulava 14, Borboran 11, Ramos 6, Villanueva E. 5, Arboleda 4, Baloria 2, Hermida 0, Raymundo 0, Apinan 0, Camson 0.
Quarterscores: 25-19, 57-45, 74-65, 95-93