Ever since the start of the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup, the buzz around the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters has been centered around super scorer Matthew Wright, and the long-awaited return of star forward Calvin Abueva.
However, neither of those two ever found their rhythm when the team completed a stunning 90-88 comeback win against the hungry Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the last game of the elimination round on Wednesday, November 11.
Instead, it was big man Justin Chua who backstopped Jason Perkins’ 30-point outing with a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double off the bench in just 26 minutes of action.
More impressively, the former Ateneo Blue Eagles anchor continued to mix up his game, as he finished with a 3-of-6 clip from three-point land.
And for new head coach Topex Robinson, that offensive eruption is exactly what he was looking for as his team now moves on to the quarterfinals with a twice-to-beat advantage. (SCHEDULE: 2020 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals)
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Justin no longer posts up. That’s a good thing for us because all the years that they have big men, we have suffered a lot,” he said.
“But now that we’ve allowed even Dave Marcelo, even JR Reyes to shoot threes, we’re gonna take our chances on that.,” he continued. “We just have to trust them, and so far, again, they’ve really been delivering, and that’s what’s important for us.”
Sure enough, Chua has taken full advantage of the green light given to him, as he has attempted at least 5 threes in 8 of his 11 appearances for the conference, and has made a decent amount of them as well to justify his volume shooting.
To cap it all off, he has not forgotten his usual duties of securing boards, and anchoring the defense, as he is currently averaging a league-best 1.7 blocks per game. Just two games ago, he also got a career-high 17 rebounds in a big win against San Miguel.
For Robinson, it’s all about just maximizing the talent they have, and given where they finished in the standings, it’s safe to say that his approach to player development is paying off.
“We’re not looking for somebody who’s not with us, but we wanna develop the guys that we have, and give them the opportunity to really explore,” he said.
“Now, Justin all of a sudden became a three-point shooter. How good is that? We’re just so blessed to have those guys who really put in the work for our team, and find ways to win.”
As the playoff picture finally got clear in the last day of the elimination round, Phoenix will need all the help, and seeding advantages they can get against the ever-dangerous Magnolia Hotshots. – Rappler.com