SINGAPORE - A spirited second-half push gave the Singapore Slingers an 84-80 win over Westports Malaysia Dragons in the Asean Basketball League Finals' opening game in Kuala Lumpur on Friday night.
The Slingers overcame a slow start, turning a 10-point deficit into a six-point lead only late in the fourth quarter.
Though the top-seeded Dragons fought hard in the last minute, cutting down the visitors' to one, a crucial three-pointer by Wu Qingde extinguished any hopes of a Dragons' comeback.
The Slingers' Xavier Alexander led the overall scoring again with 27 points, closely followed by Justin Howard with 24. Matthew Wright was the Dragons' top scorer with 22 points.
Slingers' assistant coach Michael Johnson said: "We're ecstatic we got the win, we did what we came to do.
"On the flip side, we didn't play that well. We trailed by 11 after the first half because of breakdowns in defence...but we hung in there like we did all year, the defence really picked up in the second half."
With just a day before Game 2 on Sunday at the same venue, Johnson added that his charges have plenty to work on after Game 1.
He said: "We need to start better than we did tonight. We didn't settle down on our defensive assignments ...we were sloppy with the ball, there were way too many turnovers.
"We were dribbling with traffic rather than moving with the ball. There are a lot of areas we can do better in. Justin got into foul trouble again, caused us some angst by the side."
The two teams will head back to the OCBC Arena in Singapore for Games 3 and 4 (if needed) next Friday and Sunday. The first team to reach three wins will be crowned ABL champions.