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HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAUL

With 1.6 seconds left in the clock, and the game tied at 80, coach Yeng Guiao drew a play which would free up Jeff Chan and set the potential game-winning play.

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But Paul Lee had other ideas in mind.

“Alam ko nung dinadraw pa lang ni coach Yeng yung play na yun. Sabi ko kay Gabe (Norwood), ‘watch me, baka malibre ako’,” the Tondo native said.

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Lee, who turned 25 that day, Valentine’s Day, struggled all game long, only converting on a three-pointer on a woeful 1-of-7 shooting from the field.

But he knew right then and there what would happen.

“Alam kong tao ko talaga si Mark (Barroca). I heard Mark shouting, “Switch!” to Alex Mallari, then I set a strong pick on Alex, and then I rolled,” Lee said.

With Norwood watching the play materialize from the sideline, he saw the defenders switch, which was what Lee told him during the huddle, and saw the latter streaking towards the basket.

Norwood then threw the ball to Lee, who got the ball and comfortably put the ball into the bucket to give Rain or Shine an 82-80 lead. That proved to be the game-winning basket as the E-Painters took Game 1 of the best-of-seven Finals for the PBA Philippine Cup.

“You got to get lucky sometimes,” Norwood said.

“We got lucky in the end,” said Guiao. “It was a good recognition by Gabe throwing the ball to Paul. This is the way this series is going to be. We just we came out the winners in this game. It could’ve gone either way.”

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Lee finished with only six points in 23 minutes of play, but his late basket erased all of his miscues throughout the night.

“Nag-struggle ako buong game pero di pa rin ako gumive up. Alam kong may mangyayari talaga eh. Birthday mo, so may mangyayari talaga.”

“Now I can greet myself a happy birthday.” (RL)

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