Calvin Abueva scored a crucial basket late in Phoenix Super LPG’s 2020 PBA Philippine Cup meeting with NLEX on Monday night, but it was Justin Chua who helped the Fuel Masters seal the triumph.
After the returning forward gave his side a three-point lead with 42.4 seconds remaining, the sweet-shooting 6-foot-4 big man then canned all four of his free throws in the final 13 ticks as they went away with the 114-110 win.
That wasn’t the first time that Chua delivered for Phoenix, though. In fact, he was among those stepping up to the plate this season, while the entire Fuel Masters awaited the reinstatement of Abueva.
In their first five games in the bubble where they went 3-2, the Ateneo de Manila product averaged 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. He then put up 19 markers on a 47-percent clip versus the Road Warriors.
Before he came to Phoenix in 2017, he played for five teams — namely GlobalPort, San Miguel, Barako Bull, Meralco, and TNT.
For Abueva, though, Chua’s play is no surprise.
“In the past few seasons, hindi niya nagagawa kasi limitado. Ngayon talagang buhos siya eh, buhos siya sa ginagawa niya. At kung saan siya komportable sa ginagawa niya, doon siya nagiging focused,” he said.
Besides Chua, there’s also third-year forward Jason Perkins, who has helped make sure Phoenix hardly felt the Kapampangan cager’s absence.
Before dropping 20 and 13 versus NLEX, the De La Salle product averaged 18.2 markers and 10.0 boards, including a 31-point, 12-rebound outing versus NorthPort in their second game.
And Abueva feels proud that the 6-foot-4 Perkins, the 2018 Rookie of the Year, can now flaunt his wares. He has even been reminding him to play as consistently as he can.
“Actually nasabi ko ‘yun sa kanya, sabi ko. ‘You are the Rookie of the Year a few years back, you gotta be consistent with how you’re gonna play,’” said the 32-year-old, who was the league’s Rookie of the Year back in 2013.
“Kasi hindi naman [porke’t] Rookie of the Year nakuha mo na, hindi ka na [magiging] consistent sa mga ginagawa mo eh. Ngayon siguro nanginig o naalog kaya ‘yung effort na ‘yun nagagawa niya.”