Singapore Slingers 67
CLS Knights Indonesia 86
Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang did not mince his words and called last night’s 86-67 loss to CLS Knights Indonesia “embarrassing” – and for good reason.
Their biggest defeat and lowest-scoring game of the campaign came on the biggest stage of their Asean Basketball League (ABL) season – Game 1 of the best-of-five Finals series.
Neo said: “Defensively, we didn’t do a good job. Offensively, we were too individualistic and eager to go one-on-one.”
If the Slingers are to win their first ABL title, they will have to do it the hard way after relinquishing home-court advantage with the defeat.
With their previous game coming more than two weeks ago in the semi-final win at Hong Kong Eastern, the three-time ABL finalists found it hard to shake off the ring rust in front of 2,900 fans at the OCBC Arena.
The Knights, on the other hand, were able to build on the momentum from last Sunday’s win over Mono Vampire as they raced to an 8-0 lead from the start.
The Slingers battled foul trouble in the second period, and Jerran Young also hobbled off with a suspected hamstring injury, but rallied to lead briefly before Doug Herring Jr made it 38-37 for the visitors at half-time with three free throws.
The wheels came off for the hosts in the third quarter when the Knights surged to a 63-50 lead by making 11 out of 19 field-goal attempts and also playing good defence to restrict the Slingers to trying tough jumpers.
With former NBA centre Darryl Watkins (23 points) and Maxie Esho (24) on fire, the Knights pulled away in the final quarter with their 100 away fans in full voice.
The long break hurt us while the Knights were playing basketball. We came out slow and didn’t seem ready.
XAVIER ALEXANDER, Slingers forward.
We played together for the team and also for (former Slinger) Wong Wei Long who was out with the facial injury he picked up against Mono.
BRIAN ROWSOM, Knights coach.
As Larry Liew (nine points) and John Fields (19) both fouled out, the Slingers were left licking their wounds, knowing they need a much better performance in Game 2 tomorrow to stay in contention.
Xavier Alexander, who finished with a joint team-leading 19 points, is hoping his team will be roused from their slumber.
In both their previous visits to the Finals in 2016 and 2017, they won Game 1 but ended up losing the series.
He said: “I think the long break hurt us while the Knights were playing basketball. We came out slow and didn’t seem ready.
“But our confidence is still high and we are looking forward to coming back strong in Game 2 and fighting with all our might.
“We got to feed off their energy and play Slingers basketball.”
Neo added: “We have to improve for Game 2 to give back to the fans, who have come out in full force to support us.
“And we need to do this not by words, but by action.”
His opposite number Brian Rowsom praised his team’s strong defence and urged them to steal Game 2 so that they can finish the job in Surabaya next Wednesday.
He said: “We played together for the team and also for (former Slinger) Wong Wei Long who was out with the facial injury he picked up against Mono.
“The Slingers know if they lose Game 2, it might be over so they are going to give us everything they got.
“I’m going to tell my team if we win Game 2, it’s a great chance for us and I don’t want us to come back here for Game 5.”
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