PAUL Lee scored the game winner off a perfectly executed inbound play with nine-tenths of a second left as Rain or Shine frustrated San Mig, 83-80, in the opener of the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Finals on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With time down to 1.6 seconds, Lee managed to break free as San Mig guards Mark Barroca and Alex Mallari lost their men in a series of picks ran by Rain or Shine, banking in the marginal basket from point-blank range off an inbound by Gabe Norwood.
He added a free throw when coach Tim Cone was called for a technical for calling a timeout San Mig no longer had for an 83-80 lead - a cushion that held as the Mixers were left to throw up a desperation heave from the backcourt with only a fraction of a second left.
“It’s just the first game but we got lucky in the end,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao. “We set up the play for Jeff (Chan) but Paul was the one who got open. And it was a good recognition by Gabe (Norwood) throwing the ball out to Paul.”
Lee only had six points for the game but the last two made for a memorable birthday for the former Rookie of the Year awardee out of the University of the East.
Guiao had both arms raised in triumph at the end of the game-winning inbound, which denied a tireless San Mig team that dragged Rain or Shine into a cardiac finish just two days after outlasting Barangay Ginebra in a fiercely fought semifinal series that went the distance.
The Mixers even looked poised to steal the win in the endgame when James Yap reprised his Game Seven heroics against Ginebra, hitting back-to-back baskets to give his team the lead, 80-78, with 32 seconds to go.
However, a defensive rebound which San Mig failed to control led to Jervy Cruz's game-tying semi hook while an attempt that slipped from Mark Barroca's grasp left the ball back to Rain or Shine with just enough time to set up the inbound - and Lee's winning basket
Big boys Beau Belga and Jervy Cruz led the Elasto Painters with 15 points apiece as they tried to carry much off the scoring load for their team in a game marked by nine deadlocks and 11 lead changes.
Joe Devance led the Mixers with 17 points, while Marc Pingris added 13 markers, 12 boards, and six assists, though both key San Mig players showed signs of fatigue late in the game.
Rain or Shine (83) -- Belga 15, Cruz 15, Chan 8, Norwood 8, Rodriguez 7, Arana 6, Lee 6, Tang 5, Teng 5, Almazan 4, Quinahan 2, Nuyles 2, Tiu 0, Ibanes 0.
San Mig (80) -- Devance 17, Pingris 13, Simon 13, Yap 12, Barroca 9, Melton 6, Mallari 4, Reavis 4, Sangalang 2, De Ocampo 0.
Quarterscores: 20-15; 37-37; 60-59; 83-80.