Basketball: Singapore Slingers must win Game 4 on Sunday to stay alive in ABL Finals

Singapore Slingers captain Desmond Oh (centre) grimacing, as he is surrounded by the Malaysia Dragons' Matthew Wright (left) and Reginald Johnson in their 72-90 Game 3 loss at the OCBC Arena last night.
Singapore Slingers captain Desmond Oh (centre) grimacing, as he is surrounded by the Malaysia Dragons' Matthew Wright (left) and Reginald Johnson in their 72-90 Game 3 loss at the OCBC Arena last night.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Lacklustre show in front of sell-out crowd results in Dragons securing 2-1 series lead

They ran, they toiled, they hustled, but in the end it was not enough.

Despite their best efforts in front of a sell-out crowd of 2,505, they fell to the fired-up Westports Malaysia Dragons 72-90 in Game 3 of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals at the OCBC Arena last night. 

The loss means the Republic's only professional basketball team trail 1-2 in the first-to-three wins series.

The Dragons were cool and efficient last night, converting 32 of their 61 field-goal attempts. This ice-cold killer instinct was exemplified by centre Reginald Johnson, whose dominance in the paint led to a game-high 34 points. 

A delighted  Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia said: "To complete the bounce-back, we had to get back the home-court advantage again. We did a good job, and we now have two chances to win this." 

Roared on by the raucous home crowd which included Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, Slingers' captain Desmond Oh and forward Wu Qingde came racing out of the blocks, scoring 16 of their 18 points in a cagey first quarter.

Wu, who has had an outstanding breakthrough season, was particularly impressive with 15 points in the first half, including three trademark shots from beyond the arc.

However it all started to fall apart for the hosts in the second half. Imports Justin Howard and Xavier Alexander continued to struggle to exert their influence on the game, with big man Howard contributing just five points.

Alexander, so often the driving force of the team this season, could not provide his trademark penetrative runs to the rim, with the Dragons refusing to give him space. His fouling out in the fourth quarter with six minutes to go effectively extinguished any hopes of a comeback.

A brief time-out following a lighting glitch failed to resurrect their hopes.

The Slingers' coach Neo Beng Siang lamented his team's defensive frailties and shooting profligacy, with just 31 per cent of their field-goal attempts converted.

Dismissing the suggestion that his team crumbled under pressure, he said: "They shouldn't have the phobia of large crowd numbers especially after the SEA Games. I'm disappointed that we let the fans down, but we need to stay positive and keep encouraging one another."

Wu, who led his team with 19 points, said: "Even though I'm the top scorer for my team, it is redundant since we lost. We have to get back on track for Sunday."

With tickets for tomorrow's must-win Game 4 nearly sold out, the Slingers will be hoping for a similar boost from the home fans as they seek a quick response to the loss.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Slingers must win game 4 to stay alive'. Print Edition | Subscribe