Not even a sold out OCBC Arena could help the Singapore Slingers pick up a win in Game 1 of the 2019 ASEAN Basketball League Finals as they dropped am 86-67 loss to the hungry BTN CLS Knights Indonesia, Friday night.

It was a jam-packed arena filled with Singapore fans eager to cheer for their Slingers after a one-year absence from the ABL’s biggest stage. However, it was the Indonesia squad that played with a sense of urgency.

After a tightly-contested first half, the Knights focused on their defense in the third quarter and it worked wonders for them as they limited the Slingers to only 13 points in period. Usually, Singapore is the team known for their defense but with Defensive Player of the Year Candidate Jerran Young suffering a leg injury in the third, the Knights showed that they can also be a lockdown team.

BTN CLS forced seven turnovers against the Slingers in the third, which was more than what they had in the other three quarters combined. On offense, the Knights banked on their strength inside as they went on a 13-0 run to build a 53-39 advantage. 10 of these 13 points were on layups as the Knights pounded the ball inside, taking the fight right to Singapore’s bigs.

The Knights opened the fourth quarter with a 13-3 run to lead 76-56 and break the game wide open as the Slingers could not come up with a run to try and change the outcome.

Maxie Esho finished with 24 points and eight rebounds in the game while Daryl Watkins chipped in a big double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds. They were backed up by Douglas Herring and Brandon Jawato who combined for 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists off outstanding all-around performances.

Xavier Alexander and John Fields both chipped in 19 markers for the Slingers but the problem was that the center committed too many mistakes with seven turnovers in the game.

Delvin Goh had a solid game with 13 points, five rebounds, and three blocks while Larry Liew and Ng Hanbin combined for 12 points, all on three-point shots off the bench.

The missing piece was really Young who only had four points, three rebounds, and three assists in 16 minutes. However, more than the numbers, it was his intensity on the defensive end that was missed by the Slingers.

It’s still unknown whether Young and the Knights’ Wong Wei Long will be able to suit up for the next game.

“They know that if they (Slingers) lose Game 2, it might be over so they’re gonna give us everything,” said BTN CLS head coach Brian Rowsom as he expects a much tougher matchup in the second game. “I’m gonna tell our guys if we can win Game 2, it’s a great chance for us.”

The Knights have proven to be a tough team to beat at home. They were 10-3 in the regular season and they’ve been undefeated in their three games there in the playoffs. Game 2 is a must win for the Slingers.

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