Slingers drop crucial home game 73-71
Singapore 5th February 2017
Rivalry heats up between Singapore and Hong Kong
The rivalry between Singapore Slingers and Hong Kong Eastern Lions is only four games old, but it heated up yesterday when the Lions overcame a 20-point second-half deficit to stun the Slingers 73-71 in a crucial Air Asia ASEAN Basketball League match at OCBC Arena.
The Slingers controlled the match for the first 26 minutes, breaking away to a 55-35 lead with 4 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But Hong Kong point guard Marcus Elliott took over and guided the Lions to an improbable win with a stunning individual second-half display.
Elliott torched the Slingers with 25 second-half points, at one stage draining four consecutive three-point baskets after Slinger turnovers to help close the gap to two points at three-quarter time, 55-57.
He continued his scoring dominance in the fourth quarter, draining more threes on his way to 30 points, and he even had an impact at the defensive end of the floor when he blocked a driving layup shot in the final minute of the match to keep Singapore at bay.
It was a remarkable comeback by the Hong Kong team, the second of its kind against the Slingers.
In the first contest between the two teams in Hong Kong, the Lions stormed home in the final minute of the match to overcome a 13-point deficit to force overtime and eventually defeat the Slingers 97-95.
This time the deficit blew out to 20 points, but the Lions were able to chip away at the lead over the last 14 minutes of the match to level the season series at 2-2.
Importantly, the Slingers still hold the head-to-head advantage over the Lions in the event of a playoffs tiebreaker should the teams finish with an equal win-loss record at the end of the season.
It was all plain sailing for the Slingers up until the latter stages of the third quarter.
Justin Howard was dominant inside, Xavier Alexander was slashing and driving to the basket for tough points in the paint, and Leon Kwek and Wong Wei Long were making shots to steer the Slingers out to a 20-point lead.
But then the Slingers were unable to handle Hong Kong’s 1-2-2 trapping defence turning the ball over throughout the second half.
The Slingers lacked organisation against the press, and Hong Kong capitalised as best they could with 12 points from 4 turnovers to give them a sight at an improbable comeback.
Singapore remained tentative for the remainder of the match, and Elliott’s brilliance steered the Lions to a morale-boosting win.
Howard continued his brilliant season for the Slingers with another 20-20 game, finishing with 26 points and 22 rebounds, Alexander finished with 16 points and 8 assists, and Kwek chipped in with 13 points. The Slingers still had a chance to pull out the game but several missed free throws down the stretch and a clutch 3 point shot late by Elliot put an end to the Slingers top spot on the ladder.
The Slingers end the weekend with a 9-3 win-loss record, while the Lions improve to 7-2.
Singapore will aim to bounce back against Malaysia Dragons in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, and then face another crucial match against finals contender Alab Pilipinas at OCBC Arena on Sunday at 4:00pm.
Article written by Michael Farrell