Basketball: Slingers upbeat despite daunting task

Centre Justin Howard in a funk after the Singapore Slingers lost 72-76 to the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions in Game Three of the ABL Finals. They need to minimise turnovers to stop the visitors winning the title.
Centre Justin Howard in a funk after the Singapore Slingers lost 72-76 to the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions in Game Three of the ABL Finals. They need to minimise turnovers to stop the visitors winning the title.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Instead of dreaming of winning their first Asean Basketball League (ABL) title in front of their own supporters, the Singapore Slingers are now desperate to avoid the ignominy of seeing Hong Kong Long Eastern Lions celebrate on their home turf.

Friday's loss at the OCBC Arena has left the Slingers in a 1-2 hole in the best-of-five ABL Finals and face a must-win Game Four today.

Slingers assistant coach Michael Johnson recalled his players' tenacity in last year's Finals.

They forced Westports Malaysia Dragons to a deciding Game Five - which they lost - after being down 1-2. He said: "We are fully resilient. We were in the same situation last year and we were able to bounce back so I'm sure we can repeat that."

"To be honest, two games in three days with no travel in between is not that big a deal for us to recover. We will go over the things that need some work and we will get back."

Johnson's optimism however, did not blind out the areas for improvement.

The Slingers shot poorly from beyond the arc, making just two from 15 attempts. They were also sloppy in possession and committed 21 turnovers. Their impressive Game One win in Hong Kong came with only nine turnovers.

Johnson said: " The over-riding factor would be the huge amount of turnovers. If you have that many turnovers, it's just really hard to win the game.

"It means you offer them more opportunities and easy baskets."

He and coach Neo Beng Siang are also demanding more from the entire roster. American duo Justin Howard and Xavier Alexander combined for 54 points in their 72-76 Game Three loss. The other three starters managed just 13 points between them.

Those 67 points from the Slingers' starting five were the lowest in the series after efforts of 88 points and 74 points.

Howard said: "We know that if each person made an extra push then we would have won Game Three. I'll definitely try to be more vocal and keep everyone focused.

"It's do or die."


ABL FINALS
Game 4: S'pore Slingers v HK Eastern Long Lions: StarHub Ch112/205 & 76.25MHz, 4pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 23, 2017, with the headline 'Slingers upbeat despite daunting task'. Print Edition | Subscribe