The Singapore Slingers warmed up for the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-offs with a 100-88 win against Mono Vampire in their final regular-season game yesterday, but coach Neo Beng Siang was far from happy with his team's performance.
"Their energy was pretty decent but, defensively, they didn't do a good job," said Neo, who was visibly frustrated on the sidelines. "Sometimes they didn't communicate and, when they did their zonal defence, some of them were out of position.
"It was a good effort from the players, but we really need to focus. Play-offs are do or die and we can't go into games sloppy."
The Slingers had secured third place in the 10-team ABL last week and have home-court advantage when they meet sixth-placed Macau Black Bears in the play-off quarter-finals on March 31.
On what he expects from his team in the play-offs, Neo added: "We have to come out as a team with a lot of energy and be hungrier than before. We need to set the tempo and start each game strong."
The Slingers led Mono Vampire from start to finish at the OCBC Arena, capitalising on their opponents' missed shots and misplaced passes with quick counter-attacks to lead 58-44 at half-time.
Swingman Xavier Alexander, 30, scored 26 points - 16 in the first half - to become the ABL's all-time leading scorer with 2,062 points, overtaking former teammate Justin Howard's 2,048.
The Thai team increased their attacking tempo in the second half to outscore the hosts but were unable to close the gap.
American import Jerran Young top-scored for the Slingers with 32 points, followed by Alexander's 26. John Fields and Ng Han Bin added 14 points each.
The Slingers finished the season third with a 16-10 win-loss record while Mono Vampire ended eighth (11-15) and will meet first-placed Formosa Dreamers (19-7) in the play-offs.
With the win in the bag, Neo gave local players such as Lim Jun Yuan, Tay Ding Loon, Larry Liew, Russel Low and Lavin Raj game time late on, but they scored only three points from free throws.
"When they went in, they were not really in the game and missed easy lay-ups and shots," said Neo.
"I want to give locals more time on court. Because, as a whole, we need everybody to step up, not just imports as our local players are important, too."