SINGAPORE - After watching the Singapore Slingers slump to their fourth defeat in five Asean Basketball League games on Wednesday (Jan 8), four-time NBA all-star Rolando Blackman, who was at the OCBC Arena as a spectator, told Slingers forward Xavier Alexander: "You guys have a great team, you just need to enjoy your basketball."
But the Slingers are finding it hard to do so at the moment, as they were beaten 79-73 by Saigon Heat on Wednesday. This is also the first time they have lost three on the bounce since 2013.
Despite playing their third game in five days, forward Delvin Goh refused to use fatigue as an excuse, instead calling for more commitment.
He said: "In every game, we had the lead at some point in the second half and could have won. But we need to have more discipline because we are not playing as a team at the moment. We are making too many mistakes and we are not consistent through all four quarters."
Slingers guard Marcus Elliott burst out of the blocks with 10 points - including two triples - and seven rebounds as the hosts led 22-15 after the opening period. They built a 27-17 advantage, but then went off the boil as former Slinger Christien Charles returned to haunt them.
Edging the battle with Slingers centre Anthony McClain, the 2.16-metre centre poured in 25 points and 13 rebounds. Charles also imposed himself psychologically by frequently bunching up the ends of his opponents' net, but the 38-year-old insisted there were no "mind games".
"I'm just reaching for the nearest thing to wipe my sweaty palms," he said. "I never thought about it as mind games, but I can't control what others think.
"We won not because of that, but it was because we were hungry and helped each other out in defence."
The Slingers' local players Leon Kwek (15 points) and Goh (14 points, nine rebounds, five assists) stepped up to support Marcus Elliott (20 points, 16 rebounds) and McClain (11 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks), but the Slingers could not score when it mattered.
Kwek gave the Slingers a 66-64 lead with five minutes left, but they started to miss lay-ups and attempts as the Heat went on a 10-0 run that proved to be the fatal blow.
"I have never had such a bad game in my five years here," said Alexander.
"I have got to be better all round because the guys look to me for inspiration, energy and leadership, and I feel I let them down.
"But if anybody thinks we will continue like this, they are crazy. We cannot be hanging our heads when things go wrong. We believe in one another and we will turn things around."
The Slingers will play Alab Pilipinas (5-2) at the OCBC Arena on Sunday. Tickets are available at apactix.com/events/detail/abl-2019-20.