Before the game, I shared 3 keys to a Slingers’ victory against their arch-rivals, the Dragons: 1) Stepping up local ball, 2) Stopping Chris Eversley and 3) Slowing the pace down.
- Our local boys managed to step up their offensive production in this game. Together, they contributed 30 of the team’s 57 points, compared to just 18 from their Malaysian counterparts.
- The Slingers managed to limit Chris Eversley’s offensive production to just 11 points from 4 of 14 shooting.
- The Slingers managed to slow the game down and kept the Dragons’ offensive output within the 60s range.
The result, however: Slingers fell to the Dragons 57-65.
Even Dragons’ coach, Ariel Vanguardia had to admit: “Part of me was scared in the first half because it’s a Slingers type of game. We are always labeled as an offensive team and can’t win if we don’t score 80. But I’m happy that we withstand their run in the third quarter and grab this win”
The Slingers did managed to significantly limit the Dragons’ offensive production, but it was not enough. The Dragons were able to feed off the energy from their high-octane plays (Moala Tautuaa’s 3 dunks and Chris’ Eversley’s 1), which I specifically mentioned to guard against, and came out tops!
While our local boys, as a whole, have stepped up their offensive production, our international imports combined for a dismal 8 of 40 shooting from the field.
Hassan Adams was 5 of 23, while Kyle Jeffers was 3 of 17. Both Adams and Jeffers were taken out of their games. The Dragons’ defense clamped down so effectively on Adams that he didn’t even manage an attempt from his drives, where he scored on all 9 of his field goals the previous game. Adams was made to settle for outside shots the whole night, which was not one of his strengths. On the other hand, Justin Knox inside defense literally took Kyle Jeffers post game away from him, causing the centre to miss all but 3 of his 17 attempts!
Both the Slingers and Dragons played excellent defense on each other in this game. The Dragons’ international imports Eversley and Knox did not have an easy night either. It was Moala Tautuaa, however, who was the difference between the 2 teams. The Dragons’ Fil-Am import was instrumental, especially in the 4th quarter, and contributed a game-high 21 points in his team’s win. His Slingers’ counter-part, Gayford Rodriguez, on the other hand, was still nursing his injuries on both ankles. While the Slingers, without a shadow of a doubt, have better local players, it is the Dragons who have a deeper team.
And yes (I said this last season, and I’ll say it again), imports do make a BIG difference to the game!*
While there is no doubt that the Slingers can play defense in this league, the Slingers do have lots of work to do on offense. As much as we should expect Adams and Jeffers to shoot better in the next game (Tonight against Hi-Tech Bangkok City 8pm), there are at least 3 other guys on the team whom I think should put on their offensive hats and help the Slingers put points on the scoreboard.
The first is none other than the famed Singapore Assassin, #5 Wong Wei Long. Since the FIBA Asia Cup, the Singapore Assassin is still searching for his scoring groove this season (his first field goal of the season only came with less than a minute left in the 4th quarter). Wei Long has become a much more confident and effective ball-handler and floor general since he first started playing in this league. Kudos to Al Vergara’s mentoring that has made Wei Long who he is today.
However, as we had mentioned 2 seasons ago, let Al be Al and Wei Long be Wei Long. While there are certainly overlaps in their skill-sets, the bottom-line remains: they are 2 different players, each with their own unique strengths. Al is an effective floor-general who excels in controlling the pace of the game. While Wei Long certainly has much more to grow in this aspect, he strives on being a shoot-the-lights-out scorer when he gets into his rhythm – as we have all witnessed during the FIBA Asia Cup.
As such, in my opinion, Wei Long has been relatively under-utilised.
For the Slingers to win, Wei Long has to become an instant scoring threat, and not just a back-up point guard shadowing Al. The Slingers has got to run some offensive sets to get him more open looks. That might mean playing both Al and Wei Long on the court, or getting Adams to play point forward. Anything. The Slingers can’t wait for Wei Long to start putting points on the scoreboard only in the 4th quarter. He needs to get hot early and become the 3rd offensive weapon of the Slingers.
The second player who is capable of carrying the scoring load is Ng Han Bin, who just came of a career-night with 12 points.
Han Bin has really revolutionised his game this season. Far from being just the catch-and-shoot player he was last season, the 6’4 forward has added a range of lethal offensive moves to his arsenal. He has now developed ability to create his own shot off the dribble. We have seen him utilise his size and length in the post. We have seen him on the drive. We have seen him running off screens.
In short, Han Bin has arrived this season, and is ready for a bigger role. This is his breakout season, and the sky is the limit!
Last but not least, Larry Liew.
Liew, who is far from a typical rookie, has already propelled his way into the Slingers starting line-up. He managed 8 points in against Laskar Dreya and 6 against the Dragons. His skinny frame is more than deceiving. As a highly mobile player, Larry is the Slingers’ best bet for a Rip Hamilton. He is an incredibly shifty player who is capable of out-running his defender to find open space. He shoots with a quick release and has the knack of slipping into the lane, as we have seen in the last game, and finishing with a quick lay-up/ floater/ tear-drop.
In my opinion, Larry is one of the Slingers best all-round offensive threats in recent years. He is simply waiting for the opportunity to explode and light up the scoreboard!
For the Slingers to get atop the league table, they need to solve their offensive woes. And they should begin by trusting their local boys a little bit more.
*I do, however, like to amicably raise an issue, which I hope some of the ABL guys could help me out.
Prior to the start of the season, I did read from an official ABL Web article that the ASEAN import limit will now drop from three, down to 2. Here are ABL’s exact words:
The 2014 AirAsia ABL season will still have a Filipino presence though with the league staying with their ASEAN Import rule. However, the ASEAN import limit will drop from three (3) down to two (2) to allow more opportunities for local players on each team. Teams rosters can be reinforced with Two (2) World Imports, Two (2) ASEAN Imports (Optional), and One (1) Heritage Import (Optional).
I am partially confused here, and I wish someone could enlighten me on this. With a Dragons team comprising Moala Tautuaa and Rashawn McCarthy, how do they fit into the ABL rule of the team having 2 ASEAN imports and 1 Heritage Import? As both players are from the US, wouldn’t they be considered 2 heritage imports? Wouldn’t that be breaking the rule? I may be wrong on this, and no offence to the Dragons, but I really wish someone could enlighten me here!