Basketball: Wounded Singapore Slingers cannot afford another slip up against Knights in ABL Finals

The Singapore Slingers (in white) in action against CLS Knights Indonesia, on May 3, 2019.
The Singapore Slingers (in white) in action against CLS Knights Indonesia, on May 3, 2019.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

SINGAPORE - After being embarrassed in front of their home fans on Friday (May 3), there is no margin for error for the Singapore Slingers as they seek to reignite their Asean Basketball League (ABL) championship charge.

Coach Neo Beng Siang admitted he is considering a shake-up to his tactics for Sunday's Game 2 clash at home against CLS Knights Indonesia and identified opposing centre Maxie Esho as the main threat the Slingers must neutralise.

The 2.06m Esho led all scorers in Game 1 with 24 points as the visitors beat the Slingers 86-67 at the OCBC Arena in the best-of-five Finals series.

The 19-point margin was the Slingers biggest loss of the season and the 67 points scored was also their lowest of the campaign - all in front of a capacity crowd of 2,900 fans.

Neo said: "Everybody is a bit down after the loss but we need to regroup and bounce back for the next game.

"It's very important to win because if we lose we're going to go to Surabaya for Games 3 and 4 feeling down. But if we win, we can go there feeling confident for the next two away games."

He had sent out 2.01m Delvin Goh to guard the Esho but the Singaporean struggled to contain the American.

Neo is therefore toying with the idea of using swingman Xavier Alexander to defend Esho.

Alexander, who stands at 1.95m and averaged 21.5 points in the regular season, has the athleticism to trouble his fellow American but it would mean more defensive responsibilities placed on one of the Slingers main attacking outlet.

Neo said: "On Friday we were not doing a good job on defence and we were not playing as a team so we have to focus on that. The most challenging thing we'll have to face on Sunday is ourselves so the team has to believe that we can do it."

Another headache for Neo is the likely absence of Jerran Young. The forward, who is averaging 19.4 points and 7.2 rebounds, hobbled off the court with a hamstring injury in the second period of Friday's game.

Goh, who scored 13 points for the Slingers on Friday, remained confident of his team's chances particularly with the local crowd behind them.

"We didn't run the plays as expected like in Hong Kong and Macau during the previous playoffs," he said. "We just got to pick up and take down the game and go to Surabaya and take two more games and we'll be good."

While Knights coach Brian Rowsom was pleased to see his side take control of the series, he warned against any complacency.

He said: "The Slingers know that if they lose Game 2, it might be over so they're going give us everything.

"I'm going to tell our guys if we can win Game 2, it's a great chance for us to win in Surabaya. We don't want to be coming back here for Game 5."