While the Slingers dropped Game 1 to their semi-finals playoff rivals Hi-Tech Bangkok CIty on Wednesday, there were some positive takeaways from the seemingly one-sided game.
While Hi-Tech Bangkok City came into the playoff game a lot more focused compared to the Slingers, building an insurmountable 26-point lead in the first half, the Slingers managed to launch a surprise 4th quarter comeback, slicing the lead down to just 9 points with 4 minutes left in the game.
What began as a heavily one-sided game in comparison to the Dragons-Heat game played simultaneously, turned out otherwise – or one could say, totally unexpected.
The close game between the Dragons and Heat eventually ended up in a 108-90 Dragon’s blowout win, while the Slingers huge deficit was eventually shaved just 14-points courtesy of the heroics of Al Vergara and Russel Low.
This proves one thing: the Slingers can match Hi-Tech Bangkok City, if they want to!
The Slingers held the season series lead 3-1 against their playoff rivals, although one could argue that the final game between the 2 teams does not count (Chris Charles missing the game entirely and Hi-Tech needing to recover from the Saigon road trip).
But even then, in the Slingers’ Dior Lowhorn (and Justin Howard) era, the Slingers managed to defeat Hi-Tech twice in the same arena where the teams would play each other again tonight.
Tonight will be the night where ABL Playoffs basketball returns to the Lion City, after a two-year absence. In that sense, I’ll call this the Slingers’ Biggest Home Game in 3 years.
It would be a “do-or-die” game for the beloved home team that has just produced easily their best season yet. A loss tonight will put an end to the season.
If there’s any game the Slingers should give their all to playing, this would be it! It’s win or go home! Everything is on the line, tonight!
What can the Slingers do to survive Hi-Tech Bangkok City on their home ground?
Here’s our SN Keys to the Game:
1) Get our ABL scoring leader into the offense early
Dior Lowhorn, the top scorer of the ABL, averaging 26.3 points per game managed just 11 points from 4/10 shooting (that’s not too bad) in Game 1 of the Playoffs. In the first half, Lowhorn had scored just 2 points – an output atypical to his game.
One might ask: why wasn’t Lowhorn scoring more for the Slingers went they needed him the most?
The answer lies in a clever match-up switch that Hi-Tech Bangkok City made which literally stunned the Slingers in the first half.
Throughout the season-series, Lowhorn was covered by Hi-Tech’s Power Forward Steven Thomas, while the centre Justin Howard by Christien Charles.
As we saw in the previous game, Hi-Tech applied a match-up switch that put the longer and quicker 7-foot Charles on the 6’5 Lowhorn, and 6’9 Steven Thomas on 6’11 Justin Howard. The length and quickness of Charles prove effective in taking away both Lowhorn’s inside game as well as perimeter shooting game. The usual offensive sets that the Slingers run that gave their superstar the scoring option was literally stripped away, leaving Justin Howard as the sole player who could do scoring damage on Hi-Tech’s defense.
With Chris Charles on him or not, the team must run plays to get Lowhorn into a scoring rhythm early into the game. The team would need their superstar to carry their offensive load and put pressure on the opponent’s D throughout the game. Perhaps a new set of plays are needed to allow Lowhorn to get more looks against a much taller Charles defending him.
Put Lowhorn back to his 26 point average and we can win this game!
2) Eliminate Turnovers
The Slingers committed a total of 24 turnovers in the entire game. Not only was that 10 more than Hi-Tech Bangkok City, but it resulted in 22 easy fast break points for their rivals.
With that stat line, there is no way the Slingers was going to win that game. One could even say the Slingers got lucky losing by just 14 points!
One could blame playoff nervousness or the lack of focus on the Slingers’ part that resulted in the 24 turnovers, but this could be somewhat credited to Hi-Tech’s defense that literally took the entire Slingers’ team out of rhythm.
The Slingers have to take care for the ball like never before tonight, because each turnover might decide the final outcome of the game.
The boys must play with poise, understand that it is playoff basketball and find a way to make quick adjustments to whatever Hi-Tech is serving them.
3) Possess a winner’s mentality
Simply put, in Game 1, the Slingers didn’t look as prepared as their rivals to compete. They were simply looking to survive.
It has been a long season for the Slingers, with its ups and downs – losing Hassan Adams and then Kyle Jeffers, not forgetting Larry Liew’s horrid finger dislocation. But at the same time, the Slingers gained a mountain of a player with the moniker “The Eruption” and a monster big man in Justin Howard who is the 2nd best rebounding in the league.
All these crazy games, the hard work in the past few months, it all comes down to one game, that is – tonight!
Tonight is the night that separates the best team and the good teams. Tonight is what the Slingers’ entire season is all about – to get into the finals and win the championship.
This burden is not just on a few players, but on everybody!
Dior Lowhorn, Justin Howard, Al Vergara, Wong Wei Long, Desmond Oh, Larry Liew, Ng Han Bin, Russel Low, Wu Qingde, Delvin Goh, Tan Chin Hong – not forgetting Coach Neo Beng Siang and Michael Johnson.
Every single one of them!
The Slingers got to show that they are the winners – the true ASEAN champions belong to them.
We are not here to survive a game, we are here to make Hi-Tech Bangkok City our game!
That’s how the Slingers have to roll, for their biggest home game in 3 years!
See you tonight at 8pm at the OCBC Arena!
Let’s go, Slingers, Let’s go!
-Photo Credit Kuk Thew