Paul Lee was just too lethal in the end game as Magnolia repulsed San Miguel, 85-80, to tighten its grip of the top spot in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
Lee took over in the final two minutes, drilling two huge triples before coolly sinking two more charities to slam the door on the last ditch comeback hopes of the Beermen to improve to an 8-1 record in the standings.
Holding on to a precarious 77-76 lead with 1:54 left in the game, Lee nailed the first of his two booming three-pointers to give the Hotshots a four-point cushion, 80-76. Magnolia then succeeded in putting the clamps on SMB import Devon Scott in the ensuing play which led to another deep trey from Lee.
Back-to-back hits from CJ Perez and Vic Manuel kept the Beermen hopes alive but was quickly doused by the perfect execution of the Hotshots to break the full court press and benefit from the two free throws of Lee with 11 seconds left.
Lee finished with 14 points while Nick Rakocevic had an impressive 20-20 display with 26 points and career-high 28 rebounds. Mark Barroca and Ian Sangalang added 12 points apiece.
More than the Lee's offensive explosion, it was the Hotshots' defense which limited the powerhouse San Miguel to just 80 points that keyed the victory according to assistant coach Jason Webb.
"It's been three straight games something like that. In terms of where coach Chito wants us to be in this moment I think we're getting there. I think at present, we're the number one team defensively in terms of points allowed and that's been the target from the start of the year," said Webb.
That defense was in full display for the Hotshots as despite the balanced scoring from the Beermen they were limited to their lowest output so far in the conference. Scott finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds to pace SMB while Perez, Manuel and Marcio Lassiter all finished with 16 points apiece.
SMB now fell to a 3-5 win-loss slate and could be in danger of missing out the playoffs if the slide continues for the Philippine Cup champions while they wait for the recovery of injured star June Mar Fajardo
On the other hand, the win also came as a fitting momentum builder for Magnolia which is now set to face its closest pursuer in the standings in Bay Area on Saturday.