Health favors Rain or Shine over Alaska in their best-of-seven PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals showdown that gets going on Friday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum and ace guard Paul Lee feels the Elasto Painters have their “best chance now” to stop a four-year title drought at the expense of the injury-riddled Aces.
After being slowed down by a knee injury since the Philippine Cup, the 6-foot Lee appears to have recovered his usual bearings in their semifinals series over powerhouse San Miguel Beer, which they eliminated in four games, giving Rain or Shine additional potent offensive weapon.
On the other hand, Alaska survived Meralco in their own best-of-five semis battle that went the full distance even without starting playmaker JVee Casio, big men Vic Manuel and Eric Menk, who were still dealing with their respective injuries.
With the Aces far from their full strength, Lee believes the Elasto Painters should pounce on the opportunity as they seek to stop a four-year title drought since winning the 2012 Governors Cup crown—the franchise’s first and only title so far.
“Ito na ‘yung best chance namin,” said Lee, 27, on Thursday during the pre-finals press conference held at the PBA Cafe-Metrowalk in Ortigas, Pasig City.
Rain or Shine also made it to the finals of the same conference last year but lost to Talk ’N Text in seven games and Lee is convinced that should serve as an added motivation among the Elasto Painters.
“Natalo kami dito last season, same conference. Pero ito na siguro ‘yung perfect timing na makuha namin,” he said. “Wala ng ibang best chance dito. Sabi ko na rin sa previous interviews na mahirap magsimula ulit. Dahan-dahan sa eliminations, quarterfinals at semifinals. Mahirap makapunta sa finals.”
Although he was far from his top form majority of the conference, including in their two-game sweep of Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals, Lee showed flashes of his usual brilliance in Rain or Shine’s four-game conquest of San Miguel Beer in the semis, including a personal conference-best of 18 points in their series-clinching victory over the weekend.
“Gagawin ko lang ang trabaho ko. Tutulungan ko ‘yung team kung hanggang saan ang kaya ko. Hopefully, nagpi-peak na rin ako sa tamang panahon ngayong nasa finals na kami. Sana magtuluy-tuloy na. Malaking tulong ‘yun sa team,” he said.
While he admitted he’s still “75 to 80 percent” as far as his current form is concerned, Lee said he’s good to go to help the Painters’ cause. “Kahit papaano may nararamdaman pa rin akong tightness. Basta ready lang ako maglaro,” he said. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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