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Ex-Phoenix coach Louie Alas says Calvin Abueva's performance was 'expected'

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Calvin Abueva returns in Phoenix win against NLEX (2:29)

Calvin Abueva returned from a 16-month ban to help Phoenix Super LPG to a 114-110 win over NLEX in the PBA Philippine Cup on Monday at the AUF Arena in Angeles, Pampanga. (2:29)

Former Phoenix head coach Louie Alas wasn't really surprised to see Calvin Abueva come up big in a smashing PBA return on Monday night.

"That's expected. That's why he's a game-changer," Alas said in Filipino in a text message Tuesday.

Playing in his first game in 512 days after his suspension was lifted by the league Sunday, Abueva showed no signs of rust and tallied an all-around line of 21 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and a steal to boost a Fuel Masters offense that scored a 114-110 win over NLEX in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup.

Abueva fit in like a glove and hardly looked out of place for Phoenix, which ranked fourth in points (95.8 per game) and second in assists (24.4) in the five prior games before he returned.

"It's a system, and Calvin was practicing with them for almost 10 months even if he was suspended. The chemistry is there," Alas noted.

With Abueva back on board, Alas sees a possible finals run for the team that thrived under him in the last three years.

"There's a huge chance Phoenix can improve from last year's semifinals appearance," he said.

Under Alas, Phoenix tallied its best playoff finish in history with a second round appearance in the 2019 Philippine Cup. That run was buoyed by a top-seed finish in the eliminations.

That experience, said Alas, went a long way in boosting the play of the Fuel Masters' veterans.

"Individuals like (Matthew) Wright, (Jason) Perkins, (Justin) Chua, (RJ) Jazul and Abueva showed so much improvement. The experience that they gained in last year's Philippine Cup is such a big thing," he said.

It also helps that Wright and Perkins are playing at such a high level. Wright leads the league in scoring at 25.5 points per game on 46 percent shooting, while Perkins is averaging a double-double of 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

"Wright is playing like an MVP and is showing so much maturity. Perkins' performance is worthy of a Mythical Five selection," he raved.

Phoenix Super LPG (4-2) will shoot for its third straight win when it takes on Alaska on Thursday, Oct. 29, at 4:00 p.m.