With the Saigon Heat’s big OT win last night against the Indonesia Warriors, the teams for the 2015 ABL Playoffs are pretty much set – Westport Malaysia Dragons, Hi-Tech Bangkok City, Singapore Slingers and Saigon Heat.
The match-ups, however, would only be set a few days before the playoffs – as the top seed is still up for grabs.
The Singapore Slingers and the Saigon Heat would be able to pick their playoff match-ups when they each face Hi-Tech Bangkok City in the Thai team’s last 2 games of the season. 2 wins by Hi-Tech and a loss by the Dragons would allow Hi-Tech to reclaim the top seed. However, should both of the top teams win their remaining games, the Dragons hold a +2 point differential against Hi-Tech and would retain their top seed.
Secured at the 3rd place, it seems very likely the Slingers would have to face Hi-Tech Bangkok City in the first round of their playoffs.
The last time the franchise made the playoffs 3 seasons ago, the Slingers’ first round opponent was the Thai team called Chang Thailand Slammers that went on to win the championship!
Now, it seems likely that the Slingers might end their 2014 ABL Campaign playing one team – Hi-Tech Bangkok City – consecutively for a maximum of 4 times – once more in the regular season and 2 to 3 more times in the playoffs!
The Slingers have shown this season that they are capable enough to beat Hi-Tech Bangkok City, from their 2-1 scoreline thus far against the Thai team. The Slingers first beat Hi-Tech on 31 August in an overtime thriller on Dior Lowhorn’s clutch shots, and again on 19 September with a revamped team that featured Justin Howard.
In fact the Slingers have shown that they are capable enough to beat any team in this league!
In what is touted as the franchise’s best season yet, this would be the Slingers’ best shot for the championship
What stands in the way for the Slingers , however, is the Slingers’ greatest rival – not any team, but their age-old nemesis better known as “The Road”.
The Slingers lost all but 3 road games last season. In this shortened season, they have won 3 of 9. Two of the Slingers road wins come against Laskar Dreya who plays in an arena a short 45 minutes boat-ride away from mainland Singapore. One has come against the Heat on 12 September when the Singapore Assassin became the Singapore Mamba and took over in the 4th Quarter.
The Slingers fell twice to the Dragons, twice to the Warriors, once to Hi-Tech Bangkok City and the latest one – an out-of-character meltdown to the Saigon Heat just a week ago.
The Slingers are 11-8, with one more road game to go.
This is the big question that beckons an answer: ” Can the Singapore Slingers win on the road?”
There is no doubt that the OCBC Arena has become a formidable fortress with the Slingers’ worse loss coming from Dior Lowhorn’s adjustment game against the Warriors- a mere 9 points!
There is no surprise that our local players – Wei Long, Larry, Desmond, Hanbin, Russel – all draw their energy and inspiration from the home crowd – boosting each of their individual performances!
However, if the Slingers are to win the championship this season, the team has no choice but to do it on enemy territory, on the ever-dreaded unfamiliar away court, in front of hostile fans, in front of boos and jeers!
The road: That’s where the best teams are tested! That’s also where the best teams are formed!
The Slingers have a tremendous opportunity and Lady Luck shining on their side with the upcoming schedule ahead of them.
All they have to do is to erase all memories of all other opponents and focus on one; erase all unpleasant moments and disappointments and channel all their energies into getting 2 or 3 wins in Bangkok at the Thai-Japanese Stadium.
They will have the opportunity to test the stadium, its fans, its atmosphere, the courts, the rims when they head to the same place for their final game on the season. All they will have to do is play an exhibition game before getting a win in the same place Game 1 of the Playoffs.
Then, they will head back home to Singapore and their beloved OCBC Arena where Slingers-starved fans will go wild and cheer their hearts out for the Slingers first game since 1 October 2014. Say we get the win, we are in the finals!
I’m probably doing a lot of imagination here, but now the boys have got to work to put this imagination into reality.
The Road is a tough place to be in, but that’s where the best teams roll!
Fans, cheer for your home team come 31 October 2014 at the OCBC Arena. Mark your calendars!