The Singapore Slingers continued their mastery of the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the ninth ABL season with a 87-76 victory on the road to take Game 1 of the Straits Cup before the action shifts to the OCBC Arena this Sunday.
Powered by the efficient offense of John Fields and Xavier Alexander, the Slingers closed out the game strongly, outscoring the Dragons 23-18 in the final period to pick up the victory.
A big rally midway through the fourth allowed the Slingers to build a double-digit lead 80-68. It was much-needed distance for Singapore as they weathered a late rally from Nnanna Egwu and Yek Liang Chuan to hang on to the victory.
Fields was locked in from the start of the game as he knew Egwu was one of the top defensive big men in the league. The Slingers’ center even picked up a technical foul in the first quarter as he got on Egwu’s face after drawing a foul.
Thankfully for Singapore, Fields was able to find better use for his fire as he torched the Dragons’ defense with 28 points in the game on an outstanding 12 of 18 shooting from the field. He also dominated the rebounding department with a game high 17.
Finding a tough matchup in Fields, Egwu was content with doing his damage from the outside as the Westports Malaysia center finished with an impressive 26 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field, even making four triples in the game. However, this turned out to be counter-productive for the Dragons as it took out their best offensive rebounder.
As a result, Egwu only had five rebounds in the game. Singapore dominated interior battle with a 43 to 32 advantage in rebounding and a massive 60 to 36 edge in inside scoring.
Xavier Alexander had another solid all around game with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists he shot 9 of 13 from the field but the most impressive number for the talented import was his 10 of 10 shooting from the free throw line.
Jerran Young chipped in 17 points, five rebounds, and four steals for the Slingers who did not get much from their locals as Delvin Goh only had six points and three rebounds, below his average of 9.5 points and 7.6 rebounds.
The struggles of their locals proved to be immaterial for Singapore as their imports did enough to lead them to victory.
Westports Malaysia’s locals did not play well either as they only matched Singapore with 14 points outside their three imports. The biggest difference in the game was that the Slinger imports all shot better than 47% from the field, while one of the Dragon imports was inefficient.
Winston Shepard posted a solid 22-point, 11-rebound performance on 9 of 18 shooting but Chris Eversley could not pull his weight as he had 14 points on 5 of 14 shooting. He also grabbed five less rebounds compared to his average of 8 per game and failed to dish out a single assist.
Singapore now has a huge advantage in the Straits Cup as the Dragons will have to win by 12 points or more to win the home-and-home matchup.