Slingers’ poor shooting night costs victory
Singapore 5th March 2017
Singapore Slingers won most of the statistical battles against Saigon Heat yesterday except for the most important one, the final score.
The Slingers had more rebounds, assists, steals and free throws than the Heat, and held the lead for near on three-quarters of the match, but still found a way to lose the ASEAN Basketball League match at OCBC Arena yesterday, 73-75.
In a concerning final quarter for the Slingers, the home team made only 5 of 29 shot attempts, allowing the Heat to overcome a 6-point three-quarter time deficit to notch a critical away win for the Vietnamese side.
In what was a terrible shooting game for the Slingers, the home side made only 30-92 field goal attempts, and 0-11 from three-point range.
It was another gut-wrenching fourth-quarter fade out by the Slingers, who have lost three of their past four home games to finals rivals by two points after being in winning positions for the majority of the contests.
The Heat never looked like winning until the final few minutes.
Trailing 61-67, Saigon finished the match with a 14-6 run over the concluding stages to steal a victory on the Slingers home floor.
It was another missed opportunity for the Slingers, who could have gone close to securing second place and home court advantage in the first round of the finals with a win, given that Alab Pilipinas also lost to Saigon on Friday night.
While the fourth quarter troubles of the past month will worry the Slingers camp, the form of import Xavier Alexander would not be.
Alexander finished with a triple double last week against Kaohsiung Truth, and played arguably his best game of the season yesterday to finish with 31 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals.
His first half was simply brilliant, single-handedly carrying the Slingers to a 36-35 lead with 21 points and 9 rebounds in the first 20 minutes of action.
Justin Howard returned from a two-week injury layoff and worked his way into the contest in the second half to finish with 22 points and 23 rebounds.
The big main toiled hard inside for the Slingers, but he didn’t have the legs to finish off many of his plays near the basket, and connected on only 10 of his 29 shot attempts. He will improve on that effort, having only trained twice since injuring his toe three weeks ago.
Leon Kwek was the only other Slinger that looked a threat, scoring 12 points, but was limited to 20 minutes due to foul trouble.
Delvin Goh continues to mature, playing a handy support role up front for the Slingers. While he made only 1 of his 6 shot attempts, he grabbed many key rebounds at crucial times in his total of 11, and appears to be reaping the benefits of an improved physical fitness program.
In encouraging signs for the Slingers’ run to the finals, guard Mitch Folkoff returned from a month’s long shoulder injury absence, and new ASEAN heritage import Josh Urbiztondo looks like a capable point guard with a high basketball IQ.
Those two will add to the depth chart of the Slingers bench, and Larry Liew will be inserted into the lineup over the coming month as he regains fitness since returning from his hamstring injury.
There were some spectacular dunks in yesterday’s game, most notably from Alexander and Heat import Lenny Daniel.
At one stage Alexander rose sharply in transition for a thunderous dunk on a fast break, and then Daniel backed it up at the other end with a surprising one-handed jam when he went under the basket for a reverse layup and then threw it down one handed with authority.
The two Americans had a lot of spring in their step yesterday, and combined for close to 10 dunks in the match.
The Slingers and Heat will play two more times at home in the regular season, and if yesterday’s contest is any indication, Slingers fans can expect sparks to fly as both teams will be aiming to secure home court advantage in the semi finals.
The Slingers’ next two games are at OCBC Arena against the Kaohsiung Truth (Sunday, March 12) and then the Heat (Sunday, March 19).
Article written by Michael Farrell