A well-designed play, divine intervention, or just sheer luck.
It could be any of those but it just cannot take away the fact how lethal Paul Lee could be especially when the game is on the line. He simply has the guts, the composure and the talent to not shy away from the spotlight and rise to those kinds of occasions as if it was perfectly made for him.
Lee may have taken a lot of big shots throughout his career but the jumper he nailed – kissing it off the glass after a broken play and as the clock expired – is certainly one of those moments that would make a hundred replays in his mind probably until the next day.
And even after the celebration that saw his teammates crowd him inside the court, he was still in disbelief, arms still on his head, when he entered the press room for the post-game press conference after the Hotshots tied the semis series against Ginebra, 1-1, with a wild 95-94 escape.
For head coach Chito Victolero, it was simply God’s will. The play was designed for Lee and even when the Hotshots star tried to refer on his teammates for the final shot – with Calvin Abueva cutting down the baseline for an open under the goal stab – the ball, somehow, got deflected and found its way back to his hands.
“It’s God’s will. It’s God’s hands so I know Paul is a lethal weapon also but with the help of our Lord I think binigay niya sa amin yon and deserve naman ng mga bata kasi we worked hard and we prepared hard,” said Victolero.
Brownlee, the defender tasked to hound Lee in the final 5.1 seconds – and definitely Tim Cone’s best choice to do the job, agreed that Lee had the basketball gods smiling upon him during that final sequence.
But the resident Ginebra import, whose 34-point explosion went for naught due to Lee’s game-winner, was also quick to credit the veteran playmaker’s nerves of steel.
“Paul Lee, you know the ball, sometimes the basketball gods (are) on your side and you got to give him a lot of credit. The ball goes to him. He’s a very clutch player. He made the shot and gave them the win so it’s all great all around game for both teams,” commented Brownlee.
Lee has been steady so far in the playoffs especially playing inside the PhilSports Arena which he slowly transformed into his personal playground. More than the playing venue though, his performance is also the product of the hard work he put in.
“Just riding my rhythm right now since playing in the PhilSports, medyo maganda yung vibe ko dito hopefully madala ko siya all throughout sa semis,” he shared.
"Credit rin sa morning routine ko everyday, nag stick to it lang ako kahit masama yung nilalaro ko nung start ng elimination, just keep working hard everyday and finally lumalabas na ngayon,” said Lee who finished with 24 points – his third 20+ point output in the last six Magnolia games played at PhilSports Arena.
Playing in the semifinals against their arch rival Ginebra and with the first two games going down the wire, Victolero is expecting nothing less in the next games. And he has the luxury of just leaving the ball in Lee’s hands to execute in the dying minutes.
“Game 1 is about execution, same thing, nakaexecute sila in the last two minutes. Kami we executed very well on both ends of the floor (this game). That’s why they call it a ‘clasico’ kasi it’s always a classic game. Di mo alam kung ano mangyayari.”