ABL: Slingers squander big lead before beating Macau Black Bears and have much to do

John Fields taking a shot while being marked tightly by Macau Black Bears players. The Singapore Slingers huge 24-point lead in the ABL game was cut down owing to a host of problems before they won 98-88 at the OCBC Arena.
John Fields taking a shot while being marked tightly by Macau Black Bears players. The Singapore Slingers huge 24-point lead in the ABL game was cut down owing to a host of problems before they won 98-88 at the OCBC Arena. ST PHOTO: JEREMY KWAN

SINGAPORE - On the court, Singapore Slingers talisman Xavier Alexander got increasingly frustrated with the umpire's calls, picking up a technical foul and committing an uncharacteristic eight turnovers to go with his otherwise superb 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

On the bench, coach Neo Beng Siang and his assistant Michael Johnson shouted themselves hoarse as their team lost their cool, their shape and game plan.

From their reactions alone, you would not have been able to tell that the hosts actually ran out comfortable 98-88 winners against the Macau Black Bears at the OCBC Arena on Friday night (Nov 30).

But the sloppy end to the Asean Basketball League game, which saw the hosts' 24-point lead whittled down to just 10 as they ran into foul trouble, shows there is clearly much to improve.

Neo told The Straits Times: "A win is a win, but my job is to get the team to move together to what we want to achieve, which is not just one win, but the championship.

"We were not disciplined enough as a team. Our initial plan was to get the ball to our big (men), and get their big (men) into foul trouble, which we did in the first half, but stopped doing in the second. Instead, our players were complaining among themselves.

"Our passing and positioning were not there, leading to interceptions and fast-break points. Macau scored 21 from our turnovers, which is just unacceptable."

Just like in their last two wins, the Slingers burst out of the blocks, and were 22-3 up with a mix of fast breaks and solid defence.

Fellow title contenders Black Bears, one of the ABL's most offensive teams who averaged 112 points in their four games before yesterday, made their first field goal only after seven minutes.

The Slingers extended their lead to 55-38 by half-time, and by the end of the third quarter, they were up by as much as 75-61.

American centre John Fields came up big in the paint, making 15 field goals from 18 attempts en route to a game-high 32 points, along with nine rebounds and seven assists.

Swingman Jerran Young contributed 12 points and seven rebounds before he fouled out with eight minutes left in the match.

While the Black Bears also lost their American centre Ryan Watkins (11 points and 16 rebounds) to five personal fouls a minute earlier, they capitalised on the confusion within the Slingers ranks to narrow the gap.

The Slingers' local power forward Delvin Goh, who posted 20 points and 10 rebounds, acknowledged his team's shortcomings but preferred to look at the positives.

As the Slingers rose to 3-1 behind the Formosa Dreamers and Saigon Heat, who have made perfect 3-0 starts to the season, the 23-year-old said: "This is a big win against what I feel are a top-four team, and we are also shorthanded with three of our players playing in the Fiba Asia pre-qualifiers. I just came back yesterday for this game myself.

"We did well in defence, while John and I also got to the paint more, especially in the first half.

"But there is room for improvement in a long season and we need to work on our defensive lapses and work harder in one-on-one containment and against three-pointers."