The Singapore Slingers fell to the Kuala Lumpur Dragons in Game 1 of their home-and-away series 79-68, Friday evening at the OCBC Arena. The only way for the Slingers to keep the Straits Cup now is by returning the favor and winning at the MABA Stadium this Sunday by 12 points or more.
Throughout this ABL season, the Slingers have suffered through a handful of bad droughts where nothing happens on offense. They had one of their worst in the second quarter against the Dragons as Singapore only managed to score a measly six points in the entire period as Kuala Lumpur took a 38-23 lead into the halftime break.
Oozing with confidence after big blowout wins against San Miguel Alab Pilipinas and the Taipei Fubon Braves, the Dragons kept their foot on the gas pedal as they led by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter, 70-46, after a basket from Cade Davis.
Sensing that they could lose the game and the Straits Cup as well unless they turn things around, the Slingers started baring their teeth later in the final period. With Delvin Goh committing his fifth personal foul early in the period, head coach Neo Beng Siang put Kelvin Lim into the game, which worked wonders for their defense.
Singapore struggled to keep in step with the fluid offense of Kuala Lumpur in the first three quarters but their slightly faster unit with only one big on the floor worked out for them, which might be an option for Game 2 of the series.
Marcus Elliot exploded for 16 points in the final frame as the Slingers outscored the Dragons 28-19 but the hole they dug around themselves in the first three quarters was simply too deep to come out of.
Elliott led Singapore with 21 points with five rebounds and three assists. Goh was their next leading scorer with 13 as Xavier Alexander and Anthony McClain only scored 12 points each even though they combined for 21 rebounds.
The missing link for Singapore was Leon Kwek who was coming off a career-high of 26 points in their last game against the Braves. The shooter was limited to only six points as the Dragons’ defense was ready for him.
Will Artino posted a huge double-double for Kuala Lumpur with 32 points and 16 rebounds while adding four blocks. Cade Davis chipped in 17 points while Bell registered 11.
The action now shifts to the home of the Dragons but the Slingers will give it everything they’ve got not just to win the game but to keep the Straits Cup on their side of the border.