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PBA: Star eyes 2-0 lead vs Kings

STAR Hotshots’ Paul Lee (right) drives against Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar during PBA action Thursday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The Hotshots won, 78-74. (PBA Media)

Paul Lee vs Japeth Aguilar

by Jonas Terrado

Star Hotshots try to defy the odds again and defeat the crowd-favorite Barangay Ginebra San Miguel for the second straight time in Game 2 of their best-of-seven semifinal series in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Star’s capability of winning two in a row in the so-called Manila Clasico showdown will depend on whether its trademark defense can once again withstand Ginebra’s attack in the 5 p.m. match set inside the busy shopping haven near Manila Bay.

Hotshots coach Chito Victolero, praised for winning the tactical battle with his multi-titled counterpart Tim Cone, is bracing for another dogfight, especially with Ginebra expected to rebound from an uninspiring Game 1 performance.

“Sabi ko nga, walang nag-expect sa amin na nandito kami. We battled, we worked hard on our chemistry, we worked hard on our defense. But it’s only Game 1,” said Victolero after the 78-74 victory last Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“We need to keep our desire to win and being aggressive on both ends. We need to match up the intensity of Ginebra, and the crowd of Ginebra.”

Showing resiliency that won them the previous six games on the way to the semis, the Hotshots drew first blood two days ago when they pulled off a hard-fought victory behind Paul Lee’s timely offense and the hardworking Marc Pingris doing wonders on the defensive end.

Lee hit the big baskets late, including a tough one-handed shot off a spin move with 24.9 seconds, preserving Star’s victory that came after taking control most of the second half.

Pingris, on the other hand, anchored the Hotshots’ defense and was one of the reasons why Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar had an offnight.

Despite the win, Lee is bracing for a defensive-oriented series.

“Simula ngayon, hanggang sa matapos ang series na to, puro na lang ganito ’yung laro kasi pareho kaming defensive teams. Kung sino ang pinakamatibay na depensa, ’yun ang mananalo dito, feeling ko,” said Lee.

Lamenting on the disappointing loss that saw Ginebra turning the ball 24 times and playing lackluster late in the second quarter after building a 10-point lead, LA Tenorio said the lack of effort was evident than in the quarterfinal win over Alaska where the Kings had to erase a twice-to-beat disadvantage.

“There’s no sense of urgency in this game para sa amin by not doing the little things na kailangan naming gawin,” Tenorio said. “Hopefully next game, we get back on playing with more effort. It’s not about the game plan, it’s really the effort talaga.

“Nakita naman natin, maraming looseballs, maraming offensive rebounds na nakukuha sila, mga 50-50 balls na nakukuha nila. Pag playoffs, it’s all about effort.”