MANILA, Philippines -- He has been far from his lethal best in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, but Magnolia veteran Paul Lee knows he will have to keep playing through pain for the Hotshots if they hope to win the championship.
A shoulder injury has been hampering Lee in their best-of-seven series against the TNT Tropang GIGA, and so far he has yet to really impose his will for Magnolia.
Through three games, Lee is averaging just 15 points on 39.47% shooting, with just one assist per game.
"Parang sprain sa balikat," Lee said of the injury he is dealing with. "Kumbaga, 'pag na-sprain ka sa ankle, ganoon din sa balikat, ganoon 'yung feeling."
With Lee struggling from the field, the Hotshots dropped their first two games of the Finals. But they are encouraged by a 106-98 win in Game 3, wherein Lee played his best game so far with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
According to the guard, he took his cue from another Magnolia veteran.
"Kumukha lang ako ng motivation kay Mark (Barroca)," said Lee.
Barroca is also not at his best, with a hamstring issue keeping the guard from playing at a 100%. Still, Barroca also showed up in Game 3, putting up 16 points and three assists, and hitting a clutch floater with under a minute left after TNT got to within three points.
"Kasi nakita ko na kung paano lumaban si Mark. 'Yun lang, doon lang ako kumuha ng lakas ng loob," said Lee.
"Na-motivate talaga ako, kasi grabe 'yung tao. Nasaktan talaga siya nang sobra pero nakita naman natin na binigay niya sa laro talaga kanina," he added. "So, there's no reason para gumive up ako."
Lee fully intends to keep playing through pain for the Hotshots as the series goes on.
"Wala naman akong magagawa eh. Magpahinga man ako, masakit pa din eh. So ilalaro ko na lang," he said.
"Kung ano man 'yung nararamdaman ko, nararamdaman ng team namin, siguro set aside na lang muna namin. Kagaya ng sinabi ni Coach Chito (Victolero), parang kailangan matuto kaming maglaro kahit na may pain kaming nararamdaman," he added.
Victolero himself has made it clear that they cannot use injuries as an excuse for their performances, given that both teams are not fully healthy at this point of the conference.
Aside from Lee and Barroca, Magnolia center Ian Sangalang is also dealing with back spasms. On the TNT side, center Kelly Williams also suffered from back spasms after Game 1, and forward Troy Rosario is doubtful to return due to a dislocated finger.
"We don't want any excuses here," Victolero stressed. "We don't want that [if] we lose, [we say] that we have some injuries, players are injured. No, we don't want that."
"We will not say that we're injured or we're wounded. Because, that's an excuse, okay. We will play through pain," he added. "I think both teams naman, merong ganyan eh. So 'yun lang, kailangan lang namin ng mental toughness here."
"We want to finish the series, and we don't want any excuses that we're wounded."
Game 3 of the Finals is on Wednesday, still at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.