NOT a few people were surprised to see Alaska workhorse Calvin Abueva sitting out the final 7:45 minutes of Game Two after playing well for most of Sunday night.
'The Beast' went perfect from the field while hitting the only three-point shot he attempted, ending up scoring 13 points in 11 minutes of play. But he wasn't there in the endgame when San Miguel went on a late burst to snatch a 103-95 lead and a 2-0 lead in the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
SMB forward Arwind Santos said he, too, was surprised not to see Abueva on the court in the final minutes.
"Nagtaka rin ako kasi hindi siya ginamit lalo na sa last two minutes," said Santos, who was also on the bench in the last minutes. "Hindi siya naibalik kaagad eh. Pero di ko alam kung bakit, idea (strategy) na nila 'yun.
"Ako rin naman hindi rin ako gaano nagamit, pero the good thing is - nanalo kami," he added.
So why is 'the Beast' not unleashed?
Approached by Spin.ph shortly after the game, Abueva was elusive with his responses.
"Hindi ko rin alam eh," said Abueva, although he made it clear he respected Alaska coach Alex Compton's decision.
"Hindi naman ako nagulat. Syempre, yung mga teammate ko (na naglalaro) nasa momentum na sila eh. Kesa naman papasok na lang ako ng last minute di ba?" he added. "Iginagalang ko naman ang decision ni coach."
Asked if he could have helped his team had he been deployed in the crucial stretch of the game when San Miguel was threatening to pull away, Abueva said: "Oo (nakatulong sana ako). Eh hindi, malay ko. hindi ko masabi."
Alaska assistant coach Louie Alas explained Compton merely stayed with the men that put Alaska in a position to win Game Two.
In an interview with reporters later, Compton also said Abueva is nursing a thumb injury and could barely grasp the ball. Abueva made no mention on the injury, perhaps not wanting to use it as an excuse.
"We're playing good naman eh. So hindi ka kailangang magpalit ng tao. Saka coach's decision yun," said Alas, who insisted that keeping Abueva out of a game was not really a gamble.
"Hindi kami nag-gamble dun. Dun kami lumamang. Kahit naman nung final one and half minutes, lamang pa rin kami run," he added.
"Sabi nga eh, coach's decision. so kung ano ang ma-feel ng coaching staff na pwede sa team ('yun ang gagawin). Hindi naman magiging isyu 'yun kung nanalo eh di ba?" he said.
Alas also revealed why they have to adjust and sacrifice Abueva in the rotation.
"Sa ball screen kasi, natatalo kami sa ball screen. 'Yung opensa kasi ng SMB, more on ball screen, (Alex) Cabagnot and AZ Reid. Kaya nag-adjust talaga kami," he said.
Watch video of interview with Abueva: