Alab out to shackle Slingers' Howard
Pilipinas coach Cuan sees Slingers' big man as the main threat
Call it Operation Howard.
The Alab Pilipinas will devise a game plan to shackle the Singapore Slingers' big man Justin Howard to boost their chances of a victory in the first game of the Asean Basketball League play-off semi-finals at the OCBC Arena on Sunday.
Together with Xavier Alexander, the 2.11m-tall Howard has been the Slingers' main go-to man this season.
Just last week, the American centre led the Singapore side to a 86-71 victory over the Saigon Heat in Ho Chi Minh with a game-high 39 points and 19 rebounds.
"My biggest worry? Justin Howard, of course," Alab Pilipinas' head coach Ronald Cuan told The New Paper in a phone interview this week.
"The game plan is straightforward: Contain Howard," said the 38-year-old Filipino coach.
"He's a really good post-man and he is my No. 1 concern because he's been really consistent this season."
Cuan has also drilled his charges on how to prevent the Slingers shooters from taking easy shots.
"The Slingers have no weaknesses that I can see," he said.
"Besides the two American imports (Howard and Alexander), another of their strengths is their shooters."
It will boil down to which team want it more and can execute their game plan better.Alab Pilipinas coach Ronald Cuan on Sunday’s clash with the Singapore Slingers
The Pilipinas will have to keep a keen eye on Wong Wei Long, Leon Kwek, Desmond Oh and Josh Urbiztondo, all of whom Cuan said are sharpshooters.
He added with a wry laugh: "Basically, it's almost everyone in their team. They can really light it up from the outside.
"Hopefully, my men can do a good job on defending them. After Howard, that's my next concern."
Alab will hope to carry their winning momentum into Sunday's clash, after finishing the regular season with classy wins over league leaders Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions (82-75) and Kaohsiung Truth (107-85).
"It (the match on Sunday) will boil down to which team want it more and can execute their game plan better," said Cuan, whose team have won two and lost two in four regular-season matches against the Slingers this season.
The Slingers may have homecourt advantage, but Cuan is hoping that the addition of Filipino Kiefer Ravena will throw their opponents off guard.
The guard was part of the Philippines' South-east Asia Games basketball squad from 2011 to 2015 which won a hat-trick of gold medals.
"Both teams are evenly matched," said Cuan.
"Our last two wins have given us a bit of momentum and boosted our confidence.
"We finished third in the league and now it's hurting us (to play away from home).
"We just have to get ready and accept it."