MANILA, Philippines – The absence of All-Star forward Calvin Abueva cannot be an excuse for the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters after they lost for the third straight game in the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup last Sunday.
This, according to assistant coach Topex Robinson who called the shots for Phoenix in that game in lieu of suspended head coach Louie Alas.
For the second game in a row, the Fuel Masters played without "The Beast" who remains suspended indefinitely following a series of controversial actions in their recent games. Without him, they bowed to Rain or Shine, 89-82, to drop to 1-3 in the conference.
Robinson pointed out that they lost plenty of production with Abueva's suspension, as he is averaging 14.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.
"But again," he quickly added, "we offer no excuse."
"We were good with what we have, and we always have to make sure that we let go of that, because wala na rin kaming magagawa doon," he said.
Without Abueva, the Fuel Masters have been relying on import Richard Howell, and sharpshooting ace Matthew Wright. Howell produced 27 points, and Wright added 15 markers, in their game against Rain or Shine.
However, LA Revilla (12 points) was the only other Phoenix player in double-digits, and they had no answer for Rain or Shine's Denzel Bowles down the stretch after Howell fouled out with under four minutes to go in the game.
Rather than dwell on the defeat, Robinson is choosing to focus on the strong effort that their team put together. Even without Abueva, they managed to go toe-to-toe with the Elasto Painters until the final minutes, when Bowles took over.
"That was a good game, it could have been better if we won the game," said Robinson.
"We would've wanted to win the game, but it wasn't given to us. Again, at least we gave a fight, and hopefully we're gonna learn from this experience," he added.
Wright, who is still Phoenix's top scorer at 19.5 points per game, stressed that they have to step up as a team while Abueva remains suspended.
"We don't know how long Calvin is gonna be gone for," he said. "What he brings is hustle, rebounds, toughness. Guys just have to step up and be that, and try to be as Calvin as possible, if that makes any sense."
Phoenix tries to end its skid on Saturday against the Alaska Aces.
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