SINGAPORE — Stung after a heavy Game One defeat in front of a sellout home crowd on Friday (3 May), the Singapore Slingers responded in emphatic fashion, thumping the CSL Knights Indonesia 77-57 in Sunday’s Game Two at the OCBC Arena to level the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals at 1-1.
Slammed by their head coach Neo Beng Siang for the “embarrassing” 67-86 Game One loss, the hosts looked an entirely different team as they roared out of the gates and never trailed in Game Two, playing patient offence and suffocating defence for the crucial win.
This time around, Neo hailed his players, calling their performance “fantastic”.
“We made some defensive adjustments after Game One, and credit to the boys, they showed passion and trust in one another to execute our game plan,” he told Yahoo News Singapore after the game.
“I think we gave the opponents something to think about before the next game.”
Winning momentum ahead of away games
Indeed, the comprehensive victory will give the Slingers some winning momentum as they travel to Surabaya for the next two games of the best-of-five Finals series at the Knights’ raucous home arena.
They must win at least one of those games to stand a chance at winning the ABL title for the first time in team history.
“The intimidating atmosphere created by their fans means we have to be even more focused and locked in when we play in Surabaya,” Neo said. “We can be satisfied with this win, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Individual awards for Fields, Alexander
Before Sunday’s game, the league handed out the individual awards to outstanding players during the regular season. And the Slingers clinched two major awards – the Defensive Player of the Season, which went to centre John Fields, and the Most Valuable Player (import), which went to forward Xavier Alexander.
The accolades seemed to spur the Slingers, and they got the 2,900-strong crowd going straight from the tip-off, speeding to a 21-9 first-quarter lead and hounding the Knights’ key players incessantly.
The two award winners were in inspired mood. Fields had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and harassed his Knights’ counterpart, former NBA player Darryl Watkins, to just eight points.
But it was Alexander who shone brightest with a brilliant all-around performance, filling the box score with 16 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, seven steals and five blocks.
More importantly, he kept the Knights’ danger man Maxie Esho relatively quiet. Esho, who scored 24 points in Game One, had just 12 points.
Balanced team effort lifts Slingers
Other Slingers chipped in as well. American guard Jerran Young, who suffered a hamstring injury in Game One, came off the benches to put up 14 points in just 19 minutes of action. And local players Ng Han Bin (14 points) and Desmond Oh (nine points) also contributed when the Knights left them open.
“We had almost two weeks off after our semi-finals and we weren’t ourselves in Game One. This was more like us,” said Alexander after the game.
“The MVP award is nice, but I’ve been with the Slingers for four seasons now, and all I want is to bring back the ABL title for the club.”
Game Three is on Wednesday, while Game Four will be on Saturday. If needed, Game Five will be played back in Singapore on 15 May.