Five things that can help the Singapore Slingers win
The Dragons and Slingers face off in a winners-take-all clash today.
Here are five key factors for success for each team
1 Good defence
The Slingers have stopped the Dragons from matching their regular season average of 93.2 points per game in all their eight encounters this term, en route to winning half of those matches.
Another strong defensive showing by the Slingers, who lead the Finals in categories such as steals (32-34), turnovers forced (72-63) and blocks (17-15), will be crucial to win this finale.
Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang (left) said: "This is our game. We haven't been defending as well as we can. Guards like Desmond (Oh), Kris (Rosales) and (Wong) Wei Long do a lot of the dirty work for us, but it is important that we defend well as a team.
"We have beaten them by preventing them from scoring more than 80 points, and that will be our target."
2 X marks the spot
In Game Three, Xavier Alexander fouled out when his team were down 69-63, and the Slingers lost 90-72 for their worst defeat of the season.
There were also fears in Game Four when he collected three personal fouls after the first half, but the American (left) managed to stay out of trouble while winning his duel with Reginald Johnson.
While Justin Howard dominates the point-scoring, the brain of the team is the one nicknamed Professor X, and the 27-year-old needs to be intelligent about defending while maintaining his focus.
Alexander said: "The intensity and physicality of the opponents were overwhelming our team. I wanted to show my team that we were going to fight and be just as aggressive as they were."
3 Stay out of foul trouble
In Game Two, it was Howard who fouled out. In Game Three, it was Alexander. In Game Four, it was Wu Qingde.
In comparison, the Dragons had just Ma, a bench player, fouling out in Game Two.
Perhaps a result of their game plan which is based on strong defence, the Slingers have chalked up more personal fouls (93-80) and given away more free throws (101-75) during the Finals.
Some of these might have been necessary, but not at the cost of going a key man down.
Neo said: "X was involved in some trash-talking with Johnson, and it can be good or bad for us.
"It is always dangerous to pick up early fouls, but Johnson also had four and had to play passive while X stayed disciplined, so that turned out well for us.
"If we are also able to cut down our reach-in fouls, we will be fine."
4 Count on me, Singaporean
As mentioned, the Slingers' locals have stepped up big time. Impressively, their Games One and Four victories were sealed by Wu (left) and Wong's clutch shots respectively. And both were playing poorly until the fourth quarter.
Power forward Delvin Goh also played a big part in the semi-final series victory over Hi-Tech Bangkok City by neutralising Christien Charles.
The Slingers will also have 250 travelling fans making themselves heard at the Maba Stadium as they attempt to will their team into the history books.
Slingers assistant coach Michael Johnson said: "It was great for us to experience a full house at home for the first time during Games Three and Four.
"We want to thank those who have been with us since Day One, as well as those who have just started to follow us."
5 Never give up
You can bet your last dollar that if the Slingers are to win the biggest game in their history and claim their first ABL title, it will not come easy.
Although Neo's team are the only side to have beaten the Dragons four times this season, the maximum margin was just seven points.
Throughout the Finals, the Slingers have not led the Dragons by more than 10 points and, with the exception of Game Four, they mostly trailed the Malaysian side.
Johnson said: "It's better to be leading from start to end like on Sunday but it's unpredictable. So far it has been a case of some players stepping up when others dipped.
"It would be nice for everything to come together for us for just this one game."
Five things that can help the Dragons win
1 Big Reg needs to come up big
Big centre Reginald Johnson, the Asean Basketball League MVP (world import) with a league-high 22.2 points per game, got 34 points in Game Three as the Westport Malaysia Dragons downed the Singapore Slingers 90-72.
But, after registering four personal fouls in Game Four, the 26-year-old was restricted to just 12 points, the 2.08m-tall American's joint-worst points tally against the Singaporean side this year, as his team lost 75-73.
With a heavily reliance on their four imports, Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia needs his big man to come good in the decider.
He said: "The Slingers managed to get into Reggie's head in Game Four. He was supposed to guard (Justin) Howard, but he failed to do so. It resulted in Howard scoring 31 points. This cannot happen if we want to win the championship."
2 Team effort
If the Finals were based on points scored by only the local players, the Slingers would have won hands-down, 103-53. Singaporeans have contributed 34.6 per cent of their team's tally compared to the Malaysians' 16.3 per cent.
This could be a little unfair as the Dragons have one more import than the Slingers, thus reducing the amount of playing time for their locals, who include Loh Shee Fai, Ma Chee Kheun and Kuek Tian Yuan who can all shoot from range.
While Vanguardia is unlikely to drop any of his imports - they have averaged more than 30 minutes on court - he said: "Throw away all the stats, records and awards. For now, it must be a collective effort. We cannot rely on only Reggie or Calvin (Godfrey) to have a good game.
3 Shoot and score
They are the ABL's top scorers, but they haven't had it all their way with the Slingers, who even made more field-goal attempts (286-274) during the Finals.
But the Dragons can be pretty unstoppable once they get going, as they showed in Games Two and Three, with each of their four imports averaging more than 10 points over the last four matches.
"We will get our offensive rhythm with our defensive intensity," said Vanguardia.
4 Contain Howard
In their four defeats by the Slingers, Justin Howard averaged 29 points.
But, when they managed to put a leash on the big Slingers centre, limiting Howard to just five points in Game Three, the Dragons romped to victory.
And, when they couldn't stop him from scoring 31 points in Game Four, they lost by a whisker.
It's easier said than done because the 2.11m-tall American is not your typical big centre who thrives only under the basket. The man can shoot pretty well from mid-range too.
Vanguardia said: "That loss hurt the team, but it's not the end of the world. We have home-court advantage but we have to work hard defensively, especially against Howard."
5 Make home-court advantage count
With the Finals tied at 2-2, the same scoreline as the regular season match-ups, neither side have been able to capitalise on their home games, losing one a piece.
But the tie-breaker will be held at the 2,500-seater Dragon's den known as the Maba Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, and the animated Vanguardia wants the home fans to make a difference.
He said: "All season long, we have worked hard to get home-court advantage.
"We are expecting our Dragons faithful to get behind us as always."
The Slingers also had to contend with an early-morning five-hour coach ride up to KL yesterday. It's not the most arduous of journeys, but it may have an impact at the end of a gruelling season where they have played the maximum 27 games.