MANILA, Philippines—Paul Lee’s keenly awaited debut was worth the wait.
Lee eclipsed the hype with an all-around game as he helped Rain or Shine escape Barangay Ginebra, 94-93, Sunday in the opening game of the 37th PBA Season at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With guns ablaze, Lee fired a game-high 21 points and collected five rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
“I just played my game,” said the 22-year-old Lee, the No.2 overall pick in this year’s draft.
“Coach Yeng (Guiao) and my teammates gave me the confidence,” added Lee.
Armed with that much-need boost from his mentor and teammates, Lee provided the immediate spark off the bench as he shot 10 points in the first period alone.
It wasn’t all about Lee though.
The Elasto Painters also drew a stellar performance from marksman Jeffrei Chan, who chipped in with 18 points, half of which came from beyond-the-arc.
Rain or Shine squandered an eight-point lead late in the game as Ginebra rallied to within 91-93 off a basket by JC Intal with under a minute left.
The Gin Kings fell a free-throw short of tying the game as Intal failed to make it perfect from the stripe.
The Elasto Painters built their biggest lead, 77-62, after three periods.
Intal, along with Mark Caguioa, paced Ginebra with 16 points apiece.
ROS started slow and trailed 2-11 in the opening minutes of the first quarter.
Ginebra still lost despite outrebounding Rain or Shine, 65-54.
Lee shot seven-of-nine from both the two-point area and at the freethrow line but struggled from downtown as he misfired on all of his six attempts.