MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) -- It was a dream return for Calvin Abueva, as the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters overcame the NLEX Road Warriors, 114-110, Monday at the AUF Gym in Angeles City, Pampanga.
Playing for the first time in 16 months, Abueva showed no signs of rust as he steered the Fuel Masters to a second straight win in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup. Phoenix Super LPG improved to 4-2 in the conference.
"The Beast" finished with 21 points, shooting six-of-14 from the field, on top of 13 rebounds and seven assists.
"It's magical that he's here," said Phoenix coach Topex Robinson after that game. "We want to thank the Commissioner's Office, the Board of Governors for finally allowing him to inspire a lot of people."
"He played his heart out… we're just happy to have him back," he added.
It was Abueva's first game since June 2019, when he was given an indefinite suspension by the PBA following a series of on-court incidents. His ban was lifted last Friday, paving the way for his return against NLEX.
The Road Warriors looked all set to spoil Abueva's return, as they led by as much as 14 points, 77-63, with seven minutes left in the third quarter after a Kevin Alas bucket.
But the Fuel Masters ended the period on a strong note, with Abueva triggering a 14-4 run that gave them the lead, 86-85, heading into the final quarter. Abueva unleashed the fullcourt pass to Justin Chua that led to a buzzer-beating jumper for the lead.
Abueva again put his stamp on the nip-and-tuck fourth quarter that featured three ties and three lead changes. After NLEX seized a 102-101 lead off a Mike Miranda jumper, Abueva converted a layup to give control back to Phoenix. The Fuel Masters went on to take a 108-102 advantage with 1:41 to go off a Justin Chua triple.
The Road Warriors got to within one when JR Quinahan nailed a long-range jumper, but Abueva scored a difficult jumpshot over Kiefer Ravena to restore a three-point advantage, 110-107, with just 44 seconds to go. Chua then proved steady at the line in the end game to keep Phoenix ahead.
"Hindi naman basta-basta rin ang NLEX," said Abueva after the game. "Ibibigay din nila 'yung best nila, 'yung best nila nag-short lang noong bandang huli."
Matthew Wright finished with a team-high 28 points, while Jason Perkins had a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out late. Chua finished with 19 markers.
NLEX, now losers of back-to-back games, squandered a career-best 27-point outing from Raul Soyud. Ravena had 18 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds, while Quinahan also finished with 18 points.
Once again, however, the Road Warriors failed to take care of a lead, and they dropped to 1-5 in the conference.