CLS Knights Indonesia 60
Singapore Slingers 63
Not even harassment by stalkers after morning training could throw the Singapore Slingers off as they kept their focus and defeated CLS Knights Indonesia last night.
The steely 63-60 win in Game 3 of the Asean Basketball League Finals gave the Slingers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. They can lift their first title with a win here in Game 4 on Saturday.
In front of a partisan 3,000 capacity crowd armed with airhorns, drums and pot covers at the GOR CLS Kertajaya, both teams played good defence in a tight game, with just one point separating the teams at the end of the first half.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said: "Defensively, we were locked in and we played as a team to hold them to another low score after Game 2 (Slingers won 77-57 at home).
"It is always going to be tough playing here and, even though some unpleasant things happened, we told the players to focus and play like there is no tomorrow.
"I'm proud of the players. We talked about winning at least one game here and they showed how hungry they were to win.
"Players like (Ng) Han Bin don't usually get that many rebounds but he had six tonight with three big ones at the offensive end."
Earlier in the day, the Slingers' team bus was tailed and rocked by a group of more than 10 men after their practice session at the game venue. No one was hurt but the league and Knights management added extra security personnel to ensure safety and order.
While the Slingers seemed unaffected, shooters Sandy Kurniawan and former Slinger Wong Wei Long combined for three triples in the opening quarter as the Knights tried to pull away in the opening exchanges. But the Slingers reeled in a 17-11 deficit to make it 17-16.
It was more of the same in reverse as Slingers, starting the second quarter with 9-0 run, conceded eight straight points before entering half-time 28-27 up.
The visitors showed great character to stay in the game even as the Knights continued to pile on the treys in the third quarter.
Instead, the hosts seemed to be the ones affected by the pressure as they converted only six of 13 free throws compared to the Slingers' nine from 11, as the quarter ended with the teams tied 47-47.
Jerran Young's three-pointer midway through the last period gave the Slingers a five-point lead at 56-51 which proved decisive.
Fields, the subject of plenty of online and verbal abuse, and Young were the top Slingers scorers with 16 points each.
Singapore Slingers' superior free throw percentage, making nine of 11 shots. CLS Knights made only 46.2 per cent or six of 13.
Fields said: "This was a good win that showed the mettle of the team.
"The atmosphere didn't intimidate us. Han Bin knocked down treys, while Xavier (Alexander) and Jerran closed the game for us.
"We got to keep it cool and we are not going to think about the title. We want to recuperate, hydrate, and return for Game 4 again with a backs-to-the-wall mentality."
Game 5, if needed, will be played in Singapore on May 15.
Neo said: "We have to be mentally and physically strong. We wanted at least one win here, but now that we got one, it is not enough. We want to finish off the series here."