Lee-thal Finish: Paul Lee caps comeback from injury with Finals MVP

Paul Lee was all smiles on Wednesday night after another gutsy performance as the 6-foot guard played an instrumental role in Rain or Shine’s impressive 109-92 victory over Alaska to finally clinch what seemed to be an elusive 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup title at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Lee, 27, came out with guns ablazing as he fired away 17 of his 20 points—all in consecutive fashion—in the first half that allowed the Elasto Painters to break away from the Aces early on and pave the way for what turned out to be a cruising finish.

The former University of the East star, a one-time UAAP Most Improved Player, had a near flawless shooting performance in under 18 minutes of play off the bench, draining seven of his eight attempts from the field, including four triples—the last conversion a step-back over Alaska rookie Kevin Racal that proved to be the dagger, upping Rain or Shine’s lead to 101-84 with over three minutes left.

“Ibang klase ‘yung nangyari sa akin—perfect comeback,” beamed Lee, who was named as the Cignal-Finals MVP for his sustained offensive performance. “Lahat lumabas. Last part ng semis and finals, perfect timing lang.”

Lee more than made up for the missed time as he averaged 15.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in a phenomenal Finals performance.

What made Lee’s second pro league title sweeter is the fact that he was not able to help Rain or Shine fully back in the 2012 PBA Governors Cup against B-Meg (now known as Star) when he sustained a shoulder injury in Game 2 of their finals series which went the full seven-game route.

“Sobrang tamis ng championship na ‘to. Natapos ko, nag-champion kami, nakuha ko ‘yung Finals MVP. Wala nang mas sasarap pa,” he said, visibly proud with his virtual first pro league title.

“Ito na talaga ‘yung pinakahihiling ko. Sobrang nakakatuwa na natapos ko. Lagi na lang kasi ako na-i-injury ‘pag playoffs na. Wala nang mas tatamis pa dito.”

Foremost among those very proud to see Lee live up to his billing was Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao, who admitted he has not lost any amount of confidence on their second overall pick during the 2011 rookie draft.

“Marami na rin nagdududa kay Paul Lee kung makukuha niya ‘yung laro niya. Pero ako hindi ako nagduda,” said the fiery mentor, adding Lee is an exceptional talent who has proven to be clutch in big situations.

“He is an exceptional talent and he is really clutch. He is clutch. When the game is on the line, I have no doubts with the ball in Paul’s hands. He will not necessarily, automatically win the game for you, but he will make the right decision and give you the chance of winning it with the ball on his hands,” said Guiao. – By Jerome Lagunzad

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