PAUL Lee delivered the killer baskets in a furious fourth-quarter exchange to lift Rain or Shine to a 96-91 victory over a tough NLEX side in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Eager to atone for an anemic game in the team’s 89-86 loss to Talk ‘N Text, the combo guard out of the University of the East scored eight of the team’s last 13 points as he took over the game after the Road Warriors seized the lead briefly in the final quarter.
The six-foot guard capped his heroics with two crucial free throws with 12 seconds left to play that sealed the Elasto Painters' first win in the midseason conference.
“We struggled a little bit in the second half. They (Road Warriors) were still bigger than we are and we’re still having problems with their size,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
The win was Rain or Shine's way of honoring the 44 PNP SAF men killed in an encounter in Maguindanao. The coaches wore black patches while the numberr 44 was stitched in the Elasto Painters’ uniform.
"This is our own way of giving tribute (to the SAF men)," said Guiao, who is also a representative in Congress. "We're not protesting anything, we're just sympathizing and giving due importance to their sacrifice."
Guiao admitted the Elasto Painters struggled to contain the Road Warriors’ big frontline combination of Asi Taulava and import Al Thornton.
Taulava finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards, while Thornton, an All-NBA Rookie team member in 2008, exploded for 19 of his game-high 28 points in the second half.
“It’s just the veteran in him (Thornton) that carried him through the second half. And so with Asi and Al Thornton giving us problems, the (NLEX) guards got open for those three-point shots,” added Guiao.
Lee led the Elasto Painters with 25 points while going 8-of-11 from the field while import Rick Jackson added 17 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks.
NLEX drew 19 points off the bench from back-up playmaker Rudy Lingganay.
Rain or Shine 96 - Lee 25, Jackson 17, Almazan 10, Uyloan 9, Norwood 8, Chan 8, Arana 6, Ibanes 5, Cruz 4, Tang 2, Belga 2, Tiu 0, Quinahan 0.
NLEX 91 - Thornton 28, Lingganay 19, Taulava 17, Cardona 7, Borboran 6, Ramos 6, Villanueva J. 4, Canaleta 2, Villanueva E. 2, Hermida 0, Camson 0, Apinan 0, Arboleda 0, Baloria 0, Soyud 0.
Quarterscores: 25-18, 43-34, 73-65, 96-91