PAUL Lee was quick to set aside the emotions in the first meeting between Star and Rain or Shine and went about doing his thing for the Hotshots on Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The end result had the Hotshots emerging victorious, 99-91, to take round 1 of the two teams’ highly-anticipated match-up since the celebrated off-season trade involving Lee and two-time MVP James Yap.
Lee scored seven of his 14 points in the payoff period, none more significant than the clutch three-pointer he knocked in inside the final 1:53 of the tightly-fought match that gave Star a 93-88 lead.
All together, the Hotshots outscored the Elasto Painters, 15-4, in the last six minutes to clinch their third straight win in five outings.
Lee later played down the hype and color surrounding the first meeting between him and his former team.
“It’s not between me and Rain or Shine naman. At the end of the day, it’s about kailangan naming manalo. Yun ang pinaka-importante sa amin,” said the combo guard, who was 5 of 11 from the field and added three rebounds, and four assists.
“Hindi ko tinitingnan yun side na kailangan kong magpakita, tumira ng marami dahil Rain or Shine ang kalaban,” he added. “Ginawa ko lang yung trabaho ko. For me, same lang naman yan, lumipat lang ako sa Star. Kailangan kong gawin yung trabaho ko.”
But the drama surrounding the match can’t be avoided especially with both Lee and Yap for so long considered the face of their former ballclubs.
Twice, Lee was at the receiving end of Rain or Shine’s on-court taunting courtesy of Jericho Cruz, who told him ‘Ano!’ shortly after his former teammate blocked his shot and later, completed a three-point play off him.
There was also the hard foul committed on him by big man banger Beau Belga in the second quarter.
All this, Lee simply shrugged off.
“Matagal na ako sa liga na ito, hindi na puwede sa akin yung mga ganun. Di na ako nagpapadala sa mga ganun,” said the former Rookie of the Year out of University of the East.
He admitted expecting Belga to play him physical.
“Actually hinihintay ko first quarter pa lang, kaso mali yung tantiya ko,” he said with a smile. “Second quarter dumating, hindi ako nakapag-handa dun.”
Lee stressed it’s important the Hotshots got the win more than anything else.
“Laro lang tayo, ginawa ko lang talaga yung part ko. Alam ko kung kelan yung oras para sa ganun,” Lee said. “At the end of the day, sa amin pa rin yung huling halakhak.”