Slingers get a wake-up call
Singapore side's coach Neo warns his team against complacency ahead of play-offs
Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang hopes that yesterday's 65-64 defeat by CLS Indonesia Knights will act as a wake-up call for his players as they gear up for the play-offs.
Neo slammed the team for complacency in their final home game after three straight victories at the OCBC Arena had earned them a play-off spot.
He said: "This is a wake-up call for us. If we don't get ourselves ready, we'll struggle to play any team in the league.
"For us, after the three wins, I think we're too complacent and happy. I'm not happy with the attitude they came with for the whole week of practice.
"For them (CLS), they had nothing to lose. They came up with energy and I respect them. They didn't give up. Although they were out of the play-offs, they still wanted to come in and win and that shows the professionalism."
Their loss to CLS, who are eighth in the nine-team table, gifted the Indonesian outfit a win after a five-match losing run.
The Slingers had the upper hand over CLS in the first quarter that ended 21-18.
On returning to the court, the Slingers put up a reinvigorated performance as they surged 12 points ahead to lead 34-22.
But that only sparked CLS to life as they came back to turn the game around and enter the break with a 39-38 advantage.
A steal by Slingers shooting guard Ng Han Bin 45 seconds into the third quarter resulted in a rebound by Christien Charles for the home side to snatch the lead back.
A more confident Slingers grew the lead to 48-41, but CLS persisted and flipped the game around to go ahead 54-52.
But the Slingers refused to be toppled and their persistence saw them reclaim their lead to end the third quarter 56-55.
The fourth quarter began positively for the Slingers as Xavier Alexander sunk two free-throws to widen the margin.
But once again, CLS fought back and secured the 65-64 victory in a frantic last quarter.
The loss casts doubt on Neo's target to finish fourth in the regular season.
He said: "We might have lost the opportunity after we lost this game. I believe we have to take care of our business, the rest we can't control.
"We lost our focus, so we need to emphasise on that and stick to what we're supposed to do."
Alexander admitted that the team were complacent and that the inconsistency that posed as a problem earlier in the season still lingers in the squad.
Alexander, who scored a game-high 18 points, said: "I feel like for 25 to 30 minutes, we played a great game but we dropped our heads, dropped the ball in the last 10 minutes and they end up coming out stronger and they end up winning.
"That's the same thing we've been dealing with all year. Putting pressure on people, getting up in games and then just dropping and relaxing.
"We need to make sure we're in attack mode and we're in kill mode. That's when we'll see the Slingers' full potential, when everybody is in full attack mode and full kill mode every second of every game.
"That's what we're searching for right now - two games to the play-offs, we're still searching for it."
He believes that the loss is a timely reminder as the Slingers prepare for their last two games before the play-offs.
They travel to Taiwan to play Formosa Dreamers this Sunday before wrapping up their regular season against Saigon Heat in Vietnam on March 24.
The 29-year-old said: "We're headed in the right direction. It's not always good to go into the play-offs with a win streak because you'll get complacent.
"Maybe a loss here will wake us up and get us off our win streak and back to playing Slingers basketball."
SLINGERS' NEX T GAMES:
v Formosa Dreamers (away, March 18),
v Saigon Heat (away, March 24)
- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TAY CHECK KING