Paul Lee looks back on clutch free throws in Asia Cup: 'Grabe ang opportunity'

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 10 2020 06:06 PM

Paul Lee during the 2019 FIBA World Cup. FIBA.basketball

MANILA, Philippines -- One of the most memorable moments for Filipino basketball fans in recent years was the bronze medal game of the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, when Gilas Pilipinas faced off against powerhouse China.

It was in that game that Paul Lee, in his first stint for the national team, added to his legend. With the Philippines down by two points, 77-79, with time running down, Lee threw up a three-pointer -- and was subsequently fouled.

What happened next is one of the great clutch moments in Philippine basketball history, as Lee knocked down all three free throws with no time left on the clock for an 80-79 win, earning the bronze medal for the Philippines.

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"Focused lang ako," Lee said of the moment, when he looked back at the game during an appearance on the "2OT" podcast.

"Nag-focus talaga ako sa first free throw, kasi yun 'yung pinaka-importante. Kasi 'pag nakuha mo siya, it's either overtime or mapapanalo mo," he said.

"Noong na-shoot ko na 'yung una, mas lalong gumaan ang feeling. Nagshu-shooting ka na lang sa practice. Tipong tapos ka na sa practice, nage-extra free throw ka na lang. Parang naging ganoon na 'yung feeling ko," he added.

Lee, who was 25 years old at the time, said he had no desire to squander the opportunity given to him. It was his first international tournament for Gilas Pilipinas, and a historic bronze medal was on the line.

"Parang sa pelikula lang mangyayari 'yun. Sabi ko grabe 'yung opportunity na binigay sa akin, so bakit mo sasayangin, 'di ba?" he said.

It helped that Lee is a good free throw shooter. He shot 83% from the line for Rain or Shine in the 2013-14 PBA season; he made 93% of his charities two years later, still the best mark of his career.

According to the combo guard, his coach at Rain or Shine, Yeng Guiao, prepared him for exactly that kind of moment.

"Ang ginagawa ni Coach Yeng sa amin is pinapatakbo muna kami bago kami mag-take ng free throws," Lee explained. "Lagi niyang sinasabi na lahat ng tao kaya mag-shoot ng free throw kapag ka hindi … parang 'yung puso hindi masyadong nagpa-pump, walang masyadong pressure."

"So tumakbo ka ng tumakbo hanggang sa mapagod ka, para maramdaman mo 'yung pressure na hinahabol mo 'yung paghinga mo. 'Yun 'yung …mga nakatulong sa akin," he added.

This, together with the extra work he puts in when it comes to his free throw shooting, gave Lee the confidence he needed to step to the line and coolly make all three shots -- in front of a hostile crowd that tried to distract him with every attempt.

Lee's third and final free throw gave the Philippines their first lead in the game -- and ultimately, the victory.

"Dahil sa time and effort na pinut ko sa free throw line, ganoon na ako ka-kumpyansa noong time na 'yun," said Lee.