Slingers face Hong Kong challenge for first time in ABL history
The undefeated Singapore Slingers expect a fast and furious contest in Hong Kong tonight.
Aiming to extend their winning streak to four games, the Slingers will need to win their third away game in a row, challenging the only other unbeaten team in the ASEAN Basketball League.
The Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions have opened their debut ABL season in style, defeating fellow league newcomers Kaoshing Truth in both games.
The Long Lions are a versatile team, with speed, pressure defence, and perimeter shooting being their most noticeable strengths in the lop-sided victories over the Truth.
Hong Kong forced an incredible 51 turnovers in their opening two games, and they’ve managed to capitalise on their pressure defence by scoring an average of 31 points a game from turnovers.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said his team is well aware of what they needed to do to ensure another road victory.
“They are very active in defence, they are quick, and they’ve got a lot of shooters outside the (three-point) arc,” coach Neo said.
“Team defence is the key for us. We need to be more active, and be ready to move fast to limit their three-pointers.”
One area the Slingers may have the advantage is in the rebounding contest.
The Slingers have outrebounded their opponents in all three wins to date, and have an overall rebounding edge of +55.
Slingers' centre Justin Howard gobbled up 28 rebounds against the Saigon Heat on Saturday, and his fellow world import teammate Xavier Alexander has also been prominent on the boards, snaring 14 against the Heat.
Howard has been in MVP form over the first three victories, playing all but 3 minutes of the season to date.
Coach Neo said the big man would once again be counted on to provide a dominant inside presence.
“Justin feels good at the moment,” he said.
“Recovery is a big part of our preparation for him, and we had only one 90-minute training session since the Saigon game."
While Howard is a world-import MVP candidate, Singaporean star Leon Kwek has to be in contention for the local MVP award.
He has had a terrific start to the season, continuing his early-season form with another 23 points, 8 rebounds performance in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday.
But don’t dismiss the influence Alexander has had in the three Slingers’ wins.
He’s possibly been overshadowed by the stats of Howard and Kwek, but his contributions have been instrumental in all three games.
The Oklahoma City native has carried the Slingers at times, and his rebounding and defence have both improved from last season.
Alexander’s season average’s of 16 points, 12 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 steals indicates just how versatile his contribution has been.
Hong Kong have also gotten outstanding contributions from three of their stars.
Point guard Marcus Elliott has an average of 26 points and 5 assists a game, Tyler Lamb has proven his all-round game is effective in the ABL with 16.5 points, 10 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, and big man Patrick Sullivan is averaging 18.5 points and 8 rebounds per contest.
Shutting down those three will be a key for the Slingers tonight.
Singapore fans can watch the game Live tonight at 8.00pm on Starhub’s Hub Sports Arena (112/205) or on mobile devices via the StarHub Go App.
Article written by Michael Farrell