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PBA: Rain or Shine gains 2-0 lead

Norwood and Abueva

Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta)
7 p.m. – Alaska vs Rain or Shine (Game 3)

Philippines – Again it was Paul Lee with the game on the line. And again it was a shot that will haunt the Alaska Aces for the rest of the series.

Lee anticipated beautifully a long bounce of a Beau Belga three-point shot, gathered the rebound along the baseline and beat clock with a tippy-toed fall-away to lift Rain or Shine past Alaska, 105-103, last night for a 2-0 lead in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Lee hit a huge 3-point shot late in Game 1 as the Elasto Painters survived a 41-point performance by Rob Dozier, 105-97, and now Rain or Shine is headed to Game 3 of the best-of-7 championship on Wednesday with a critical advantage over an opponent that appears clueless on how to deal with RoS’ myriad ways of getting out of trouble.

“It was a tough game but it was treat for the fans,” said RoS coach Yeng Guiao, who is two wins away from clinching his seventh PBA title. “It will be tougher every game from hereon. A 2-0 lead is never safe against a team like Alaska.”

Dozier simmered down after his scorching offense in the opener, getting held down to 18 points on 7 of 13 from the floor with his last basket – a hook shot – tying the game, 103-all. But RJ Jasul came through with 24 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the last 1:43, and three other Aces were in double figures.

Still it wasn’t enough to beat the E-Painters, simply because the Aces couldn’t keep the ball out of Lee’s hands come crunch time.

Alaska did force Lee to give up possession to Belga at the right corner with the game tied, 103-all, and the 24-second shot clock nearly over, which would have left Alaska with about 3 seconds to plot a game-winning play if RoS missed.

Belga did, with his 3-point heave slightly overshooting the center of the basket and nicking the rim.

“The play was for Jericho [Cruz] to choose from either Paul or Jeff [Chan] at the corners, pero inagaw ni Beau yung tira e; di naman siya dapat nandoon,” said Guiao with a grin. “It wasn’t supposed to be the play but it turned out to be the game-winning play.”

Recognizing the shot was long, Lee, whose 3-point play off Dozier with 1:05 remaining would have sufficed as the evening’s highlight film had fate not designed a better one, came from under the basket, grabbed the miss, took one look at the remaining time at the other end of the court and swished in a high-arcing fade-away, which Jasul couldn’t contest.

“Nakita ko malakas e kaya nagbaka-sakali ako,” said Lee. “Pagka-kuha ko, meron pang mga two seconds sa oras kaya naitira ko pa. Buwenas lang talaga.”

Lee said the general tendency to go for the rebound after a 3-point attempt worked to his advantage.

“Lahat nag-aabang sa ilalim e,” he said.

Alex Compton, the Aces coach, felt luck had little to do with it, however.

“Again to the end, we had a defensive breakdown,” said Compton after some silence during the post-game interview. “We have to play with more precision, go out there and steal a game or two.”

The Aces’ ability to come back is not lost on Guiao.

“They know they are a good team and they can always come back,” Guiao said. “Calvin [Abueva], for one, hasn’t had his usual game, and he’s due for one.”

Abueva had 14 points after scoring 9 in Game 1. But the leading candidate for the Best Player of the Conference was just 5 of 12 from the floor and appeared stymied by Rain or Shine’s young guards, notably Cruz and rookie Maverick Ahanmisi.

RAIN OR SHINE 105 – Chan 17, Lee 17, Belga 14, Cruz 14, Ponferada 14, Henderson-Niles 8, Ahanmisi 6, Quinahan 6, Almazan 3, Ibanes 2, Norwood 2, Tiu 2, Teng 0.

ALASKA 103 – Jazul 24, Dozier 18, Abueva 14, Thoss 14, Baguio 11, Banchero 9, Hontiveros 8, Exciminiano 5, Baclao 0, Eman 0, Dela Cruz 0.

Quarters: 21-26; 49-51; 76-79; 105-103.