CLS Knights Indonesia 87
Singapore Slingers 74
The Singapore Slingers' excruciating wait for that first Asean Basketball League (ABL) title will have to wait for at least another four days as CLS Knights Indonesia beat them 87-74 in Game 4 of the Finals series in Surabaya last night to level the best-of-five showdown at 2-2.
The winner-takes-all Game 5 will be played at the OCBC Arena on Wednesday.
Building on the Game 3 win last Wednesday, the Slingers got off to a flyer last night when they raced into an 8-0 lead in the first quarter. But the Knights found their feet to turn the deficit into a 21-18 advantage in that period.
By half-time, it was 46-34 to the home side.
The damage was done by former NBA centre Darryl Watkins (28 points) and Maxie Esho (20), as well as some red-hot shooting from the perimeter as the hosts rained treys in bunches, with Brandon Jawato alone grabbing five.
Knights coach Brian Rowsom told The Sunday Times: "Our plan today was to attack the paint and get them into foul trouble.
"We shot a much higher percentage inside (46.7 per cent compared to Game 3's 29 per cent) and Darryl played much better today."
The visitors also had to battle some contentious refereeing decisions throughout the game, including missed goaltending and fouls. Ng Han Bin was cut in the face by Watkins' challenge, only to be called for a foul.
ALL TO PLAY FOR
We came here with the target of winning at least one game and we did that. We will tidy up on our defence and offence and we will be confident with the must-win game back home.
NEO BENG SIANG, Slingers coach, looking forward to finishing the job in Singapore.
The Slingers got into more trouble in the third quarter, when John Fields, Jerran Young and Larry Liew chalked up the fouls at four each and also incurred several technical fouls.
The Knights' key men Esho and Jawato also reached four fouls, but they had already done the damage to help their team lead 70-54.
With Fields and Liew fouling out for the Slingers, the Knights were content to run down the clock and made numerous buzzer-beaters in the closing stages.
Xavier Alexander, who grabbed a team-high 25 points, tried to rally his troops in the last period, but to no avail.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang said: "Even though we made a good start with good energy, we couldn't keep it up and fell apart.
"Defensively, we gave up too many treys (nine) and, when calls didn't go our way, we were affected and shut down mentally.
"But we came here with the target of winning at least one game and we did that. We will tidy up on our defence and offence, and we will be confident with the must-win game back home."
Alexander is confident his team can regain their focus and play smart and effective basketball on Wednesday for that elusive first ABL title.
He added: "The Knights played hard, aggressive and strong and we didn't respond. We made too many live turnovers which gave them fast breaks.
"But we stole one game here and we will have home-court advantage for the last game.
"It's time to be comfortable back home, where we know our fans will be there for us in the first Game 5 in Singapore.
"We are looking forward to getting the job done."