SMART Clark Giga City. - Everybody was expecting Calvin Abueva to redeem himself Friday.
The man formerly known as the "Beast" did not disappoint, leading Phoenix Super LPG past TNT 110-103 to even up their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals duel at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Gym in Angeles City.
Abueva finished with a double-double of 20 points and 15 rebounds he highlighted with three points, eight rebounds and some hustle plays in the stretch that completed his bounce-back from a 92-95 loss last Wednesday, when he was in foul trouble for most of the way.
With Jason Perkins adding 21 points and Justin Chua also rebounding from a three-point game with 18 this time, the Fuel Masters turned the initial best-of-five match-up into a race-to-two affair.
The other Phoenix players also did their part in their own way to make up for top gunner Matthew Wright scoring just two points while hobbled by a sprained ankle.
"Wala si Matt kaya kailangan naming lahat mag-step up at nagawa naman namin," said Abueva in a post-game TV interview. "'Yung mga pinapagawa ni coach Topex (Robinson) na patience lang sa execution, sa mga plays namin at 'yun 'yung naging reason kung bakit nanalo kami."
Spoiled was the biggest night of Bobby Ray Parks' young career.
Parks finished with a new career-high 41 points while going 10-of-14 from 3s, but fouled out in the last 4:59 of the game on an offensive foul against Abueva, with TNT nursing a 92-90 lead.
Abueva turned that play into a pair of charities, sparking a 17-5 surge that pulled Phoenix into a 107-97 spread, only 46 seconds left. In that stretch, Perkins had nine of his points but Abueva stoked it with another freebie, an assist to Alex Mallari for a corner triple and a tap of the loose ball to Mallari that led to a fastbreak layup by RR Garcia.
Robinson couldn't be prouder of Abueva. "It's always a joy to see Calvin being a different 'Beast' right now," he said.
"He (Abueva) knows that Matt is not a hundred percent and he just kept on promising that, you know, when he wasn't around Matt was always there for him. Eto ngayon, sabi niya, nawala naman si Matt, siya naman babawi."
All the other TNT starters scored at least 10 points each, but Game 1 hero Jayson Castro was held to only nine points, five rebounds and three assists, a far cry from his 20-6-6 effort in the opener.
More balanced was Phoenix's offense as RJ Jazul's 16 points led the Fuel Masters' 40-15 advantage in bench points.
Sustaining its momentum from late in the opening quarter, Phoenix actually led by as much as 60-42 but found itself in a tight contest when TNT started going hard to the basket more.
Troy Rosario's short stab even gave the Tropa their last taste of the lead at 92-90, but came that Parks charge that left them with no real offensive threat to counter Phoenix's.(NC)
PHOENIX 110 - Perkins 21, Abueva 20, Chua 18, Jazul 16, Garcia 12, Heruela 10, Mallari 9, Wright 2, Rios 2, Intal 0, Marcelo 0, Napoles 0, Gamboa 0.
TNT 103 - Parks 41, Enciso 14, Pogoy 13, Erram 10, Rosario 10, Castro 9, Washington 4, Reyes 2, Semerad 0, Montalbo 0, Carey 0.
Quarters: 28-27; 60-45; 86-60; 110-103.