SINGAPORE - With seven games left before the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-offs, the Singapore Slingers are on track to achieving their goal of finishing second when they won their third consecutive game - their second-longest winning run this season - on Sunday (Feb 24).
The Slingers beat the Westports Malaysia Dragons 81-44 at the OCBC Arena for their second victory over their Causeway rivals in three days.
While Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang was beaming after lifting the Straits Cup - contested between the two Causeway rivals in the ABL - for the third season in a row, he warned his team against complacency before the play-offs.
"I'm definitely happy for them... but (being) second is the goal right now. We definitely can keep up the momentum so long as we don't get complacent," said Neo.
"We need to keep working and doing what we're supposed to do. Take it game by game and things will take care of themselves."
The Slingers got off to a bright start thanks to sharp shooting by Xavier Alexander and Jerran Young, leading 23-13 after the first quarter.
The Dragons tightened their defence early in the second quarter, but the Slingers increased their attacking tempo to widen their lead to 38-25 at half-time.
The home side were excellent at both ends in the third quarter, scoring 24 points and limiting the Dragons to only nine points as they extended their lead to 62-34.
After leading by a massive 37 points with 21/2 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, Neo rested his regulars and finished the game with five local players - Delvin Goh, Lim Jun Yuan, Tay Ding Loon, Kelvin Lim and Russel Low. Lavin Raj later came on for Low.
"We were up by 30 and, while winning is good for us, I wanted to get more players some court time and experience," said Neo.
He also praised his players for improving from their 87-76 win against the Dragons on Friday.
"That's what we want: to get better and better every game. We really stepped up on defence and kept the pressure on them.
"The players stuck to the game plan and locked down on the Dragons' imports so (Chris) Eversley scored only six points and (Nnanna) Egwu, who scored 26 points last Friday, scored eight."
John Fields was the Slingers' top scorer with 28 points, followed by fellow Americans Young and Alexander with 21 points apiece. Winston Shepard led the scoring for the Dragons with 25 points.
Finishing second in the regular season will earn the Slingers a home advantage in the play-offs.
With the win, the Slingers remained third in the 10-team ABL with a 12-7 record behind the San Miguel Alab Pilipinas (16-3) and the Formosa Dreamers (12-6).
On what the Slingers need to improve on, Neo said: "We had 16 turnovers today and it is still high so we have to bring that down to 10 to 12. We will also work on passing.
"I don't think we have a chance to finish first, but we'll definitely try our best for second."
The Slingers will next play the CLS Knights Indonesia in Surabaya on Feb 27.