Slingers eclipsed by Dragons' import Reginald Johnson
Extra plate of local dish fuels Dragons import Johnson to dominate against Slingers
SINGAPORE SLINGERS 72
WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS 90
- Dragons lead best-of-five series 2-1
He ate an extra bowl of chicken rice before the match, and might have asked for an extra helping of chilli too.
Westports Malaysia Dragons' big centre Reginald Johnson was red-hot last night in Game 3 of the best-of-five Asean Basketball League (ABL) finals series against the Singapore Slingers, converting 13 of 18 field-goal attempts in an exciting 34-point individual performance.
The 26-year-old lived up to his new billing as the ABL's MVP (world import) and the 2.08m, 132kg giant was a key part of the Dragons' 90-72 win over the Slingers, the biggest defeat suffered by the hosts this term.
After suffering a Game 1 defeat in Kuala Lumpur, the Dragons now lead 2-1 and can claim their first title if they win again at the OCBC Arena Hall 2 at 4pm tomorrow.
"I said we wanted revenge and we got it in Game 3," Johnson told The New Paper.
"Coach (Ariel Vanguardia) told me to be dominant and I was.
"But nobody has won the series yet, nobody's celebrating. We are not done yet."
Vanguardia agreed. He said: "The Slingers won't quit. I expect them to bounce back on Sunday.
"Reggie (Johnson) played very well. I fed Johnson an extra bowl of chicken rice today. He loves chicken rice and he was pumped up with the crowd chanting 'MVP, MVP'."
While Johnson couldn't miss, the Slingers' own big man Justin Howard endured a poor night in front of a sell-out crowd of 2,500.
The 34-year-old American shot just 2-for-15 and claimed a mere five points, a far cry from the 24-point average in his previous two games.
The 2.11m, 116kg centre took responsibility, saying: "I put it all on me, I let the team down.
"I didn't do anything in offence or defence.
"I was just not there, I was just a non-factor and I put it all on my shoulders.
"We just have to come back on Sunday and give it everything we've got."
With 85 seconds left on the clock, some of the bulbs in the arena blew, but with the score at 90-69 to the Dragons, it was already lights out for the Slingers by then.
The last time the Slingers held the lead was at 26-25 halfway into the second quarter, and they were level at 45-45 four minutes into the third quarter before the Dragons took over for good.
While the Dragons played a great rotation, the damage was done by their four imports who contributed 80 of their 90 points, while the Slingers' three only totalled 30.
Dragons' power forward Calvin Godfrey was all dunks and smirks, point guard Jason Brickman had a game-high eight assists, swingman Matthew Wright chipped in 16 points and the unstoppable Johnson couldn't miss even from behind the arc.
As the clock wore down, the 100 or so travelling fans were making themselves heard, after exploding into life in the final quarter.
For the Slingers, it was the locals - forward Wu Qingde and captain Desmond Oh - who shone with 19 and 12 points respectively, as their usually reliable swingman Xavier Alexander fouled out with six minutes to go.
Said Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang: "We did not play well defensively and let Johnson dominate the offence.
"We got into foul trouble early and struggled with the outside shots.
"But it's not over.
"We beat them three times this season, so we have to stay positive, stick together and believe in ourselves.
"We want to thank the full-house home crowd, we are disappointed not to able to give them the win they wanted tonight.
"We need them even more for Game 4, I hope they will come back and support us on Sunday to take this to Game 5."
Reggie (Johnson) played very well. I fed Johnson an extra bowl of chicken rice today. He loves chicken rice and he was pumped up with the crowd chanting ‘MVP, MVP’.
— Westports Malaysia Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia