PAUL Lee made his PBA season debut on a low note as Rain or Shine lost a disappointing 109-105 decision to San Miguel Beer in Game One of their Philippine Cup semifinal series on Tuesday night.
The Elasto Painters star played his first game in over two months after being sidelined with a left knee injury prior to the season, and was naturally downcast after seeing his team blow a 20-point fourth-quarter lead.
“Malungkot, natalo eh,” Lee said. “Medyo masama yung balik ko. Kala ko okay na.”
Lee also had the chance to at least send the game to overtime, but his left-wing three-pointer went in and out in the second-to-last possession of the Elasto Painters who trailed at that point, 105-108.
“Actually dapat hindi na umabot dun eh,” the former Rookie of the Year said. “Lamang kami start ng fourth quarter, pero nahabol.”
A silver lining, however, was Lee made a solid season debut as he registered eight points, including two three-pointers, along with two boards, one assist, and one steal against three turnovers in 17 minutes.
Painters coach Yeng Guiao admitted he had planned to just use Lee sparingly, but ended up extending his minutes due to his fine play.
“He’s not a hundred percent and I was looking to use him for ten to twelve minutes, but I decided to use him a little bit more and make him feel the pressure, make him feel the physicality of the game, and also just try to give him some confidence,” he said.
Lee, himself, surprised that he lasted that long.
“Nagulat lang din ako na natapos ko 'yung game,” the Tondo native admitted. “Hindi ko in-expect, pero ready lang ako pag ginamit ako ni coach Yeng.”
“Still recovering pa rin,” he was quick to add. “Nagpapalakas pa rin ako, kasi feeling ko hindi pa rin hundred percent. Tuloy pa rin sa strengthening.”
Guiao believes his investment in Lee will pay dividends in the long run.
“I took that gamble and, of course, it didn’t pay off, but I think it’s going to go a long way in helping him out and giving him the timing and confidence,” Guiao said.