SINGAPORE – The Singapore Slingers have one foot in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-off semi-finals after another rout of Bangkok Tigers, winning 121-74 on Sunday. This follows a 147-89 triumph over Louvre Surabaya on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Saigon Heat (9-3) secured their play-off spot alongside Malaysia’s NS Matrix (9-2) with a 79-70 win over Macau Black Bears (5-7) on home soil.
With an 8-4 win-loss record and a healthy +184 point difference, the Slingers can be ousted from the top four only by Filipino side Zamboanga Valientes, who have to win their remaining three games and hope the Singapore side lose their last two games in order to progress via point difference.
Simply put, the Slingers have their play-offs fate in their own hands, and they did not drop the ball as they opened the Vietnam circuit on Saturday.
At the Nguyen Du Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, the Slingers conceded the first basket against the Tigers but never trailed again after Delvin Goh equalised.
Despite the size mismatch, the Thai outfit put up good resistance with fine mid-range and perimeter shooting from Angustus Lewis Stone Jr, W. Vedder Freeman and Jose Nouchanthavong.
The Tigers cut the lead to just one point midway through the first quarter and were down 55-44 at half-time before the Slingers fired on all cylinders in the second half, with their American heavyweights Kentrell Barkley (32 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists), Chanceler Gettys (25-16-6) and Xavier Alexander (13-9-9) leading the way.
The Slingers’ local roster also made significant contributions, pumping in 51 points, with breakout starlet Jackson Mah (14-8-2), Delvin Goh (13-7-2), Kelvin Lim (12-4-2) and Tay Ding Loon (10-1-0) getting in on the double-figures act.
Barkley, who made back-to-back blockbuster alley-oop dunks at the end of the second quarter and the start of the third, said: “We are gelling better as a team, leading to good team performances like these, as we try to reduce our mistakes every day.
“We want to finish as strong as possible, and the goal is to finish this circuit 3-0.”
Fellow forward Mah, 18, added: “I have learnt a lot playing in the ABL with the Slingers, including being calm during play so we don’t rush our shots, and when shooting opportunities come, I will take them confidently.
“Of course, there is a feel-good vibe now after two big wins, but we have two more important games to finish off the regular season, so we cannot slack off.”
Coach Neo Beng Siang did have the luxury of fielding an all-local line-up for the last three minutes to give his imports some rest before their last two regular-season games against the Heat (Wednesday) and Valientes (Thursday).
This is the fourth time this season the Slingers have scored more than 100 points, as they maintained their status as the ABL’s top scorers while also making a season-high 60 rebounds.
While Neo is pleased with the high scoring, he urged his team to tighten their defence, which ranks fifth in the eight-team league.
He added: “I’m happy with the scoring but offence is built on defence and I always believe a strong team defence wins championships. Good defence definitely helped us today in the third quarter to open up the lead.
“I’m pleased with the team’s effort today and the local boys did well today. But overall, we have been giving up too many points this season, so we need to work on improving our defence and our hustle for the loose ball. And we need everyone to step up on game day, like we did today.”