All hope is not lost yet for the Singapore Slingers as they will still get one more opportunity to retain the Straits Cup as the actions shifts to the MABA Stadium, the home of the Kuala Lumpur Dragons.
In the first game of their fifth annual home-and-away series, the Dragons drew first blood with a 79-68 victory. A poor first half, including a six-point second quarter, was enough to doom Singapore but there were enough positives to build on after they finally showed some fight in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, head coach Neo Beng Siang will have to get creative as his slower frontline fell victim to the more versatile Kuala Lumpur side. With Will Artino and Cade Davis being inside and outside threats, Anthony McClain and Delvin Goh had to step out to defend them, which in turn poked holes into their interior defense.
Artino got a lion’s share of the shots for the Dragons with 28 in the game as he finished with 32 points and 16 rebounds. He should be a marked man in the rematch as the Slingers had a couple of days to devise a plan to slow him down.
What was apparent in the last contest was that if Marcus Elliott wants to take over, there’s very little that the Dragons’ defense can do stop him. He exploded with 16 points in the final quarter where Singapore outscored Kuala Lumpur, 28-17, but it was a case of too little and too late as they were already down big.
The Slingers need to get their usual numbers from Xavier Alexander but the more important thing is to involve Leon Kwek in their offense. The sweet-shooting local was coming off a career-high 26 points with seven threes in their win against the Taipei Fubon Braves but he was limited to six shot attempts versus the Dragons to finish with only six points.
What’s important for the Slingers to find a way to start strong in enemy territory. If they play their game and employ fine-tune their lockdown defense stealing the Straits Cup away from the Dragons can still be a possibility if they win big.