Basketball: Dragons deal Slingers crushing Game 3 loss in ABL Finals

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Desmond Oh (#2) of the Singapore Slingers drives against Ma Chee Kheun (#28) of Westports Malaysia Dragons during Game 3 of the ASEAN Basketball League Finals at OCBC Arena on March 18, 2016 in Singapore.

With the clock still ticking in the fourth quarter, several members of the home crowd could be seen making their way out of the court. A power failure with 1:25 to go certainly did not make things better for the Singapore Slingers, as they were doomed to a 72-90 defeat by the visiting Westports Malaysia Dragons in Game 3 of the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Finals.

Despite playing at home in front of a sell-out crowd, the Slingers suffered their second straight double-digit loss and were simply outplayed and outhustled by the Dragons.

With most of their key players plagued by foul trouble throughout the game, the Slingers also did not get enough support from their fans. The home crowd was deafened by a small but energetic group of Malaysian supporters, who filled only about a tenth of the Arena.

“The fans were better here today than in Malaysia,” said Dragons centre Reginald Johnson, who credited the Malaysians for travelling down for the game.

“They were loud. They were proud. I heard them the whole game and hopefully Sunday we can make sure that they can come on down and celebrate with us.”

Malaysia’s win was largely thanks to the strength of its imports, namely an efficient Johnson.

The centre was a +42 on efficiency and shot 72 per cent from the field, finishing with a double-double of 34 points and 13 boards.

“Today’s game was a big time game for us and we didn’t want to go down and let them close out the game come Sunday because the atmosphere would have been crazy here,” said Johnson.

“It’s not going to be easy to close out the win on Sunday, but that's our goal and our guys got to stay hungry.”

Xavier Alexander (#15) of the Singapore Slingers protects the ball against Calvin Godfrey (#40) of Westports Malaysia Dragons during Game 3 of the ASEAN Basketball League Finals at OCBC Arena on March 18, 2016 in Singapore.

Poor shooting hurts Slingers
Compared to the Malaysians, who enjoyed an efficient 52 per cent field goal percentage, the Slingers made only 31 per cent of their shots.

Centre Justin Howard did not have much of an offensive presence, as he finished with only five points on 13 per cent shooting in the absence of Xavier Alexander, who played a season-low 23 minutes.

“I let the team down,” said Howard. “I didn’t do anything much offensively and defensively and I was a non-factor so I’ll put a lot on my shoulders.”

Both teams were neck-and-neck until Alexander fouled out with six minutes to play in the final quarter.

From then, the Malaysians took over and Calvin Godfrey dashed the Slingers’ hopes with two dunks that sent the small Malaysian crowd into an ecstatic frenzy.

Heading into Game four, the Slingers now face an uphill task against an inspired Malaysian squad.

While disappointed, Slingers head coach Neo Beng Siang was optimistic that the team will show up in the next game.

“We need to stay positive because there’s two more games to go and we have to take care of business on Sunday here first,” said Neo.

Neo was also apologetic to the Singaporean fans, and lamented that the team did not play to their expectations.

“It’s the first time that we have a full house here in the Arena, and the fans didn’t get what they want from us, but hopefully they’ll come back on Sunday and show their support for the team.”

Howard added, “Sunday is a do-or-die game and of course there’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time, we know we’re capable of winning this and we’ll come out stronger in the next game.”

Game 4 will be played at the OCBC Arena at 4pm local time on Sunday.