SURABAYA, INDONESIA - Not even harassment by stalkers after their morning training session could throw the Singapore Slingers off as they kept their focus and defeated CLS Knights Indonesia on Wednesday (May 8).
The steely 63-60 win in Game 3 of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals meant the Slingers have taken a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
In front of a partisan 3,000-strong capacity crowd armed with airhorns, drums and pot covers at the GOR CLS Kertajaya, both teams played good defence to restrict each other's scoring. Only one point separated the teams at the end of each of the first three quarters.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said: "Defensively, we were locked in and we played as a team to hold them to another low score after Game 2 (which Slingers won 77-57 at the OCBC Arena).
"It is always going to be tough playing here and even though some unpleasant things happened, we told the players to focus and play like there is no tomorrow.
"I'm proud of the players. We talked about winning at least one game here and they showed how hungry they were to win. Players like (Ng) Han Bin don't usually get that many rebounds but he had six tonight with three big ones at the offensive end."
Earlier in the day, the Slingers' team bus was tailed and rocked by a group of more than 10 men after their practice session at the match venue. No one was hurt but the league and Knights management added extra security personnel to ensure safety and order.
While the Slingers did not seem affected by the incident, shooters Sandy Kurniawan and former Slinger Wong Wei Long combined for three triples in the opening quarter as the Knights tried to pull away in the opening period. But the Slingers reeled in a 17-11 deficit to make it 17-16.
It was more of the same in reverse as the visitors started the second quarter with 9-0 run, only for the hosts to erase that with eight straight points as the Slingers entered half-time with a 28-27 lead.
The Knights continued to pile on the treys in the third quarter, but the Slingers showed great character to stay in the game.
Instead, the Knights seemed to be the ones overawed by the pressure as they converted only six of 13 free-throw attempts, compared to the Slingers' nine-from-11, which ultimately proved costly in a close contest.
Jerran Young's three-pointer midway through the last period gave the Slingers a five-point lead which proved decisive.
Fields, the subject of plenty of online and verbal abuse, was the top Slingers scorer alongside Young. Both had 16 points.
Fields said: "This was a good win that showed the mettle of the team.
"The atmosphere didn't intimidate us. (Ng) Han Bin knocked down treys, while Xavier (Alexander) and Jerran (Young) closed the game for us.
"We got to keep it cool and we are not going to think about the title. We want to recuperate, hydrate, and return for Game 4 again with a backs-to-the-wall mentality."
The Slingers can lift their first ABL title with a win here in Game 4 on Saturday (May 11). If the series go to Game 5, the decider will be played in Singapore on May 15.
Neo added: "We have to mentally and physically strong. We wanted at least one win here, but now that we got one, it is not enough, we want to finish off the series here in Game 4."