Slingers must improve to reach play-offs
Coach Neo sets target of finishing in the top four
Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang is aiming for his team to finish in the top four, after losing 69-82 to fourth-placed San Miguel Alab Pilipinas at the OCBC Arena yesterday.
|SINGAPORE SLINGERS||ALAB PILIPINAS|
However, his team, who have reached the play-offs in the last three seasons, must improve on their defending - a problem that has plagued them this season - in order to achieve their target of a third- or fourth-placed finish.
Despite having the edge over the visitors in the first two quarters yesterday, the Slingers' defensive errors saw them slump to a home loss to the Philippine team, following back-to-back wins against the Westports Malaysia Dragons.
Saigon Heat's 118-115 overtime win over leaders and defending champions Hong Kong Eastern last night saw the Vietnamese side move up to fifth, with the Slingers slipping to sixth in the nine-team table.
China's Chongson Kung Fu are second, with Thailand's Mono Vampire in third place.
Neo believes that with a run of four consecutive home games coming up, making the top four is still achievable if they can improve on their weakness at the back.
He said: "We have to secure our wins back home because that's basically a good platform for us with several games in a row.
Today, they came in really hungry and we’ve got to give them all the credit for that.Slingers point guard AJ Mandani, on the Alab Pilipinas who beat them yesterday
"We have to struggle with defence because it depends on who we play.
"We have to tweak that and the players might get a bit confused but, when it comes to pro basketball, we have to really switch on every time.
"It's what we expect from the guys."
Yesterday, the Slingers had shaken off their tendency of starting sloppily, putting up a strong display in a fiercely fought first quarter, going into the break with a 20-17 lead.
The last few minutes of the second quarter saw an intense fight between the teams, but the Slingers held on for a 38-37 lead, as shooting guard Xavier Alexander racked up 18 points, which included two three-pointers.
But they could not match the performance of a rejuvenated Alab in the second half.
Alab wasted no time, capitalising on the Slingers' poor defending to snatch the lead after sinking a string of shots.
The Slingers fought back, reducing Alab's lead to 46-49, but this was shortlived.
Alab blazed ahead to a 12-point lead by the end of the third quarter.
The visitors dominated the final period, capping their win off with 10 three-pointers in the last quarter.
Alexander eventually finished with 32 points but that, along with Christien Charles' tally of 14, was not enough.
Slingers point guard AJ Mandani felt that Alab deserved the win.
He said: "Today, they came in really hungry and we've got to give them all the credit for that.
"They did all the things we didn't want them to do.
"They came out energetic, they were running their offence, they did what they had to do to win the game today, so all credit to Alab today."
On the Slingers' defeat, he said: "We just had a couple of mental lapses going down the stretch and Alab did a great job of just countering it.
"So we've got to do a better job and just stay focused the whole 40 minutes, no lapses."
Everyone must be switched on for the team to maintain consistency over the whole game, said Neo.
He said: "It's not just coaching staff, it's everybody who plays a part - during practice, during games, everybody's accountable."
- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHARIFAH MUNIRAH