Magnolia on Wednesday night received a beating at the hands of TNT, no thanks to the exploits of super import Terrence Jones as well as the local crew headed by Roger Pogoy, Brian Heruela, and Jayson Castro.
Despite the loss, the Hotshots will still be marching on to the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals as the fifth seed, and will face the fourth-ranked team in defending champs Barangay Ginebra in a best-of-three series.
But, there seems to be a bit of a problem: Magnolia will be entering the said stage not in the most ideal of ways.
Wednesday’s defeat to the KaTropa had marked their fourth consecutive loss. From being one of the hottest teams in the conference before with a five-game winning streak, the Hotshots will head into the quarters skidding.
Paul Lee, however, would like to put their recent struggles behind and just focus on the new task at hand.
“Kung ako, I’m not going to look back sa apat na straight na talo namin. Quarterfinals na ito. Different ball game, different scenario. Kumbaga, wala na yung 5-6 record dito eh,” said Lee, who had 23 points in the loss.
“Ako kasi, kapag natapos na itong eliminations, lahat ng nangyari, binubura ko na yun,” furthered the gunslinging 6-foot guard.
“This is another chapter for us na mag-focus nang mas maayos, mag-focus kami sa quarterfinals.”
The upcoming quarters will definitely be a huge test for Magnolia, as they will be facing a Ginebra side who has gained enough momentum heading into the next stage as they ended their run in the eliminations with three straight wins.
History, though, is on the side of the Hotshots. In their last two playoff meetings in the 2018 Governors’ Cup semifinals and in the 2019 Philippine Cup quarterfinals, Magnolia has beaten the league’s most popular team.
Lee, however, does not want to bank on that edge. For him, it will be different this time around with Stanley Pringle.
Pringle, whom the Gin Kings acquired last June 18 through a trade with the NorthPort Batang Pier, is seemingly assimilating nicely with the Barangay. He has averaged 16.8 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.0 rebounds across five games.
“I think tumama lang yung game plan namin last conference. But this conference, different scenario, they got Brownlee, they got Stanley, so nandoon yung may piyesa sila para manalo every game,” said Lee.
“Kaya kailangan paghandaan namin. Bilog naman yung bola, sana maganda lang yung game plan namin and maniwala kami na kaya naming manalo.”
Another challenge for Magnolia approaching the quarters is having new import Rakeem Christmas digest everything he has to to get accustomed with his new team — Christmas was brought in to replace James Farr.
Christmas had an underwhelming debut as he only collected eight points, 14 rebounds, three assists, and a steal in over 33 minutes. But Lee expressed positivity with what he had seen from the former NBA cager out of Syracuse.
“I think okay naman siya. For me, okay yung nakikita ko, positive ako sa kaniya,” the eight-year pro out of University of the East said. “Babalik tayo doon sa wala naman maidudulot kung mag-iisip ka ng negative. Ako positive lang ako.
“Simple lang naman yan, tutulungan niya kami, tutulong namin siya. Ganoon lang kasimple. Yung local pa rin naman yung magdadala. Kailangan yung contribution namin, kailangan nandoon lagi.”
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