If you ask me which is the biggest game for the Slingers this season, I would say, this one – February the 1st VS the San Miguel Beermen at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
First of all, the idea is just going to be awesome. For the very first time, the Slingers will be donning something other than their regular home jersey for a very special Cancer Awareness night. The limited edition pink jerseys that they will be donning will be auctioned and given to the fans with the highest bid for charity.
Secondly, the mood will be absolutely fantasic. We are expecting the indoor stadium to be packed (and hostile) tomorrow with a fair share of San Miguel Beermen supporters. So it’s going to be a great atmosphere!
Thirdly, and most crucially, this is going to be a “statement” game!!! The Slingers (3-1) are up against the Beermen (2-1). And if the Slingers are going for the championship, this would be the game they are going to take seriously. This game would be a clear sign of which team is better this season. And the result of the game would make an impact far more than just for tomorrow. A win would not just put the Slingers at the top of the league table, but it would send a clear signal to the rest of the league that the team means business. If they beat the Beermen tomorrow, they can jolly beat anybody in this league.
Each time a team from the Philippines visits Singapore, it almost always lead to a crazy game. Last year, an underdog Slingers team fought their hearts out against the Patriots at the indoor stadium, went into double-overtime, and fell eventually.
But well….this season, things are slightly different. In the past, any team against the basketball powerhouses Philippines would be the underdogs. Yes, that would be true for season 1. But in season 2, hey, the Chang Thailand Slammers took the title. In this season, we saw the Malaysia Dragons defeating the Beermen in their very first game.
Although I would say it’s still going to be a tough fight for the Slingers tomorrow, in no way are the Slingers the underdogs! In fact, I do think that the Slingers stand a fairly good chance, coming off a 25-point thrashing of the Bangkok Cobras, to take the game tomorrow.
By analysing how the Slingers and the Beermen play their last few games, here’s what we think would might just make the difference tomorrow:
1) Donald Little
The Little Big man has finally broke out of the silence and mustered up stellar performances in the last two games. In Saigon, he went for 22 points and 8 rebounds. In the last game, he went for 9 points and 17 rebounds. Besides his increased statistical production, he has been phenomena on defense, literrally shutting down the opposing team’s inside scoring with his post presence and blocking capabilities. Should Little repeat his crazy performances and stay out of foul trouble, the Slingers would stand a good chance against their rivals.
2) Get defensive stops and keeping Beermen’s inside scoring to a minimum
One reason why Little will play a crucial role is because the San Miguel Beermen are an inside scoring team. And inside stops are crucial if the Slingers want to win. In each of the Beermen’s big wins, with the exception of the Chang Thailand Slammers game, they pounded the ball inside, as both of their American imports are low-post scorers. Unlike the Patriots or the Dragons which possess a inside-outside import combo, the Beermen, after dropping Richard Jeter, have on their team 2 low-post scoring imports without any outside threat. With that, it’s pretty obvious where the bulk of their points will come from. If Donald Little and Louis Graham can control the paint area with their defense, the Singapore Slingers stand a good chance to taking the win.
That being said, the Slingers also have to watch shooters Leo Avenido and Benedict Fernadez on the outside. If the Slingers can take the rhythm out of these 2 guys just as they did for Kruatiwa who went 3/17 in the last game, they will be going for the W.
3) Our Local warriors
If you ask me in season 1 which player is better: Baguion or Wei Long, the answer is obvious that the Filipino point guard certainly has the edge. But ask the question again this season, and I’ll say it’s hard to make a call. Wong Wei Long, as we have seen in the last few games, has vastly improved. He is not only playing with a much higher level of confidence, but he is also making shots! If we would do a simple statistical comparison, Wei Long is averaged 8 points, while Baguion is averaging only 3.7 and shooting 20%. Although Baguion is dishing out more assists than Wei Long, Baguion is shooting a mere 20% from the field. If they go head-to-head, it’s no longer the case that Baguion is better than Wei Long.
What I’m trying to say here is that – our locals are no longer what they use to be – they can play ball ! ! !
Just look at Desmond Oh, who went for 16 points, and that’s on top of his stellar perimeter defense capable of shutting down any off-guard in this league. And just look at how Wei Long exploded with 15 just 2 games later.
Not to mention, our 17-foot assassin, Pathman Matialakan, have been silent in the last 3 games and awaiting an opportunity to break his scoring slum! And there’s no better game than tomorrow’s!
One thing is clear this season: the Slingers are no longer over-reliant on their imports. It’s the locals running the show in town – and winning the games!!!
As long as the locals compete with the high energy and aggressive as they did last game, the Slingers stand a high chance of winning tomorrow’s match-up. Like Donald Little said, “if our locals perform how they did last game, we are going all the way to the finals”.
4) Fans, it’s you! MAKE SOME NOISEEEE!!!!!
Finally, as shown clearly in the last 3 home games, crowd support does a miracle to the game. The Slingers lost their first game when a pack of Indonesian Fans took over our home court and began cheering the Away team. The Slingers were lacklustre in the first half of the Slammers game as the fans kept quiet, but went the fans came alive, the Slingers came up with stops and took over the game with storm. Last home game is perfect example of the fans-players synergy that gave the team and extra boost to trounce their opponents. There is certainly a correlation between crowd support and player performances, and with a potentially hostile crowd tomorrow, WE GOT TO CHEER OUR TEAM ON!
So, Slingerfans, let’s get ready to rumble!
Come down to the Singapore Indoor Stadium tomorrow (1 Feb) at 8 pm to support the Singapore Slingers!