ABL Finals 2019

Slingers bid to keep Esho quiet

Coach Neo needs stronger defence against Knights danger man to keep title hopes alive

After being embarrassed in front of their home fans on Friday, there is no margin for error for the Singapore Slingers as they seek to reignite their Asean Basketball League title charge tonight.

Coach Neo Beng Siang admitted he is considering a shake-up of his tactics for Game 2 at the OCBC Arena and identified CLS Knights Indonesia centre Maxie Esho as the main threat they must neutralise.

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

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

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

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

  • 11cm

  • Maxie Esho's height advantage over Xavier Alexander, if the Slingers man were to be assigned to guard the CLS Knights Indonesia centre, who top-scored in Game 1 with 24 points.

On Friday, 2.01m Delvin Goh struggled to handle Esho and Neo is toying with the idea of using swingman Xavier Alexander for the job.

The 1.95m Alexander, who 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 outlets.

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 have to believe that we can do it."

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

Goh, who scored 13 points in Game 1, remained confident of the Slingers' chances, particularly with the crowd behind them.

"We didn't run the plays like we did 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 first blood, he warned against complacency.

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


ABL FINALS

Game 2: StarHub Ch202, 4pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 05, 2019, with the headline 'Slingers bid to keep Esho quiet'. Print Edition | Subscribe