Basketball: Saigon Heat force deciding game against Slingers after OT win in Game 2 of ABL semi-finals

The Singapore Slingers lost 81-79 to Saigon Heat in Game 2 of the 2023 Asean Basketball League Invitational semi-finals on March 8. PHOTO: SINGAPORE SLINGERS

They were leading by 11 points early in the third quarter. But slowly, the Singapore Slingers saw that lead reduced by Saigon Heat at the Nguyen Du Arena in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday.

They had opportunities to snatch the win and clinch their spot in the 2023 Asean Basketball League Invitational Finals. But they had only themselves to blame as they crumbled in the last stage, allowing Heat to steal a 81-79 win in overtime and force a decider of the best-of-three semi-finals.

Coach Neo Beng Siang said: “I am very disappointed, we lost to ourselves especially in the last quarter and overtime.

“We held on to the ball for too long without moving it and we weren’t aware of the shot clock running down.

“The opponents were very aggressive and there were too many turnovers, which killed us.”

With Kentrell Barkley not fully fit after hobbling off in Game 1 on Monday and Chanceler Gettys picking up two fouls early, the Slingers adopted a more conservative approach, holding on to the ball longer and shooting late.

The hosts edged ahead to lead 20-19 after the first 10 minutes but the Slingers upped the ante in the next quarter as all but two players who were given court time earned points, helping the visitors lead 44-39 at half-time.

The Slingers came out firing on all cylinders in the third quarter, amassing an 11-point lead. But the Heat reduced the gap to just two at the end of the third quarter after converting all six of their free throws.

Foul trouble for Gettys, Xavier Alexander and Larry Liew as well as multiple shot-clock violations did not help the Slingers’ cause.

Heat’s Evan Gilyard Jr proved the spark his team needed, coming up with nifty jump shots and drawing fouls to help his side take the lead with 1min 38sec to go.

The Slingers regained the lead through a trey from Barkley, but Gilyard soon tied the game at 72-all with 49 seconds left and neither side could find the breakthrough, forcing the season’s first overtime.

Again, the Slingers started overtime well but faded quickly. The Heat’s free throws proved the difference as Gilyard scored three of four in the last 50 seconds to help his side lead 81-79.

Alexander could not get a shot in to tie the game, allowing the Heat to force a decider on Thursday.

Overall, the Vietnamese side scored 22 of 30 free throws while the Slingers went to the line just six times and scored four.

Despite concerns about fatigue, Neo and his charges are confident they have what it takes to win on Thursday.

Gettys, who scored a game-high 31 points, said: “We played with good energy and effort, but we had some mental lapses late in the game that cost us.

“It’s win or go home (in Game 3). There’s no such thing as fatigue, we’ll lay it all on the line. I’m confident every time I step on court, we have 40 minutes to prove ourselves, we just have to play hard and smart.”

Delvin Goh called on his teammates to stay composed and united, saying: “We’re 100 per cent the better team. We have to be hungrier, put in more effort and we’ll be good. It’s 1-1 now, not 2-1 so we still stand a chance.”

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Eastern secured their Finals spot with a 76-70 win over NS Matrix Malaysia for a 2-0 series victory.

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