Slingers coach Neo cool over who they'll meet in play-offs
The Singapore Slingers may not have had a convincing Asean Basketball League (ABL) regular season, but Neo Beng Siang's men are ready to make amends.
The Slingers ended their regular season with a 97-77 win over Saigon Heat last Saturday and finished fifth on the nine-team table, but coach Neo is confident that his men are ready to take on any team in the ABL play-offs.
Citing a marginal difference between all six teams in the play-offs, the 51-year-old believes that it boils down to his team's preparedness to face their next opponents.
Neo told The New Paper yesterday: "Honestly, all the teams in the play-offs are pretty close (in terms of wins and losses), so it doesn't matter who we'll play in the quarters.
"It's more of how we adjust ourselves to be more focused and stronger when we face the other teams.
"Every game matters, so we're got to strengthen the mental aspect of our game and, as long as we do that, and stick to the game plan, we're good to go."
While Neo was despondent about not reaching his initial target of a top-four finish, he believes the Slingers can prove themselves in the play-offs.
"We may not have gotten what we wanted (to finish in the top four)," he said, "but I'm pretty satisfied with the adjustments that we made to the team along the way."
Drawing positives from the match against Saigon, he added: "Our last match was good for us to build the momentum into the play-offs, so hopefully we can keep it going.
"So far, our team also have the best defence, so we have to keep working on that and stay disciplined."
In the play-offs, the Slingers will meet the fourth-placed team, which could be Hong Kong Eastern, Mono Vampire or San Miguel Alab Pilipinas , who are currently second, third and fourth respectively.
All three teams are tied at 14 wins with leaders Chongson Kung Fu playing their final game against Eastern on Wednesday.
The top two teams on the table will advance to the semi-finals, while the remaining four teams will play in the quarters, which will be played in a best-of-three format.
The Slingers have reached the ABL Finals in the past two years, but were narrowly defeated by Eastern both times.
But no matter which team they will face this time around, Neo believes that his team's experience will give them an edge to clinch the elusive title.
Slingers' power forward Delvin Goh also feels that they have proven themselves over the higher-placed teams and is raring to enter the play-offs.
The 22-year-old said: "From the way we played in the regular season against some of the toughest teams, we've showed that we can beat anyone if we follow our coach's game plan and stick together.
"There may have been ups and downs in the regular season, but that's basketball. What's important now is how we fight back from the defeats.
"We've got to want it more now, and I'm definitely confident that we'll head back to our third straight Finals."