Eastern Long Lions vow to bounce back
Eastern Long Lions determined not to allow Slingers to take a 2-0 lead back to Singapore
|HONG KONG EASTERN LONG LIONS||SINGAPORE SLINGER|
- Slingers lead best-of-five series 1-0
At the stroke of noon yesterday, staff armed with nets trotted out onto the basketball court at the Shek Kip Mei Park Sports Centre to transform it for badminton use.
Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions coach Eduard Torres was still going through a play with his team, but his allocated two hours had been up.
They still have one more shooting practice this morning before the Asean Basketball League Finals Game Two at the Southorn Stadium tonight but, metaphorically, Eastern are running out of time to find an answer to the Singapore Slingers' physical game.
If the Hong Kong side lose and go 2-0 down, they will have a mountain to climb trying to beat the Slingers at the OCBC Arena on Friday and Sunday to take the decider back home next Wednesday.
In Game One on Saturday, the Slingers had dominated from pillar to post as they ran out 92-76 winners, with big centre Justin Howard especially unplayable as he claimed Finals records of 45 points and 28 rebounds.
"This has happened before, and that's why I say the Slingers are the better team across the five times we played them," said Spaniard Torres, 52.
"We beat them twice, but those were quite miraculous wins. We have got to play better than before, maybe play our best game ever, to beat the Slingers and stay alive in this series."
Even though Eastern were the ABL's highest-scoring team with 91.4 points per game, they did not get going on Saturday, converting just nine of 40 three-point attempts and a woeful nine-for-19 from the charity stripe.
They were also out-rebounded 57-36 and committed more turnovers (13-9).
Former New Jersey Nets centre Joshua Boone said: "We should have expected them to play as hard and tough as they did, and match them, but we didn't.
"We have definitely learnt our lesson and we are going to be much better in Game Two."
Point guard Marcus Elliott, who was Eastern's top-scorer in Game One with 20 points, added: "Maybe some of us let discouragement get the better of us but, of course, that weren't the real Eastern you saw on Saturday.
"It was a humbling loss and, when you get humbled like that, you either respond with positive aggression or you fold. I'm confident we will rise to the occasion because we need to win."
Meanwhile, at the Harbour Road Sports Centre, Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang did not see the need to make too many changes for the second game.
The 49-year-old said: "The key for us is to remain composed and humble, and stick with the good defence we played in Game One.
"We will need to continue to shut down (Eastern's) running game and shooters like Elliott and Tyler Lamb.
"I expect them to double- or even triple-team Justin, so if that happens and he kicks it out to our shooters, we need to make these count."
One of their shooters is Filipino-American Joshua Urbiztondo, who joined with four games to go in the regular season.
The 34-year-old point guard, nicknamed "Fireball", lit up Game One with an ABL Finals record of seven three-pointers.
"I'm a player that if I hit one or two, they just keep coming back to back and I was fortunate they were falling for me," he said.
"However, there are still some things we have to fix. We played really good defensively but, on the offensive end, we have to limit our errors and act like it is still 0-0."