Having lost the first game of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-off semi-finals at home, the Singapore Slingers' season was on the line last night.
But the team, whose crest fittingly features a lion, played with the heart of one to force a deciding third game tomorrow. They beat defending champions Hi-Tech Bangkok City 95-66 in the second match of the ABL semi-finals - at their rivals' home ground no less.
The Thai team were lacklustre in offence from the get-go, with post players Christien Charles, who tormented the Slingers in their past two matches, and Steven Thomas barely getting a sniff of the ball in the first half.
On the other hand, the Slingers, eager not to repeat last week's horror show in offence, were prolific with their shots, taking advantage of Hi-Tech's slow start to build up a huge 19-point lead by half-time. The gap proved too far to bridge, with the home team struggling to gather momentum throughout.
The Slingers' influential point guard Kris Rosales, who was the top scorer (24) in the opening game, sat out last night's game with a finger injury. But he was not missed, as the locals stepped up to contribute a combined 66 points.
Wong Wei Long led the overall scoring with 29 points, a career high in the ABL, while centre Justin Howard contributed 20. Fred Goldstein led the way for the off-key home team with 20 points.
Happy with the improvement from the previous game, Slingers assistant coach Michael Johnson said: "We changed some stuff, got much more aggressive and played like how we played during our (10-game) winning streak. We had a huge contribution from the locals and the defence was outstanding."
The two teams will square off in the crucial final game at the OCBC Arena at 4pm tomorrow. The winner will advance to the Finals, where league top seeds Westports Malaysia Dragons await.
Confident of his team repeating the performance, Johnson said: "We don't need to change what we did today... We took the game to them, and we're at home next game. I'm sure they'll do some adjustments, but we're looking forward to another good game."