Slingers: Keep faith with us
Singapore side eye winning run with four home games coming up
The Singapore Slingers have urged fans to retain trust in them as they eye a home run in the remainder of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) regular season.
After a 13-point thrashing by San Miguel Alab Pilipinas at home last Sunday, Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang is targeting a top-four finish and a spot in the play-offs.
Their win-loss record stands at 7-7 this season, leaving them fifth in the nine-team table, which raised eyebrows considering the Singapore outfit finished runners-up in the regular season and made the play-off Finals for each of the last two years.
However, a change in format this year could offer them a lifeline.
Last year, only the top four teams in the regular season's six-team league qualified for the play-offs.
This year, due to the increase in the number of teams, the third- to sixth-ranked teams will face off against each other in the play-off quarter-finals before joining the top two teams in the semis.
With four home matches and two away games left, Neo has ruled out their chances of a top-two finish, but has set his sights on making the top four and the play-offs.
The 51-year-old told The New Paper: "Top two is definitely out for now, but we're trying to climb to the third and fourth spot.
Getting into the play-offs, I think we’ll be a very scary team once we get there.Singapore Slingers’ swingman Xavier Alexander
"We may be fifth (on the table) now but even so, it's not guaranteed that we're in the play-offs
"We have to make use of our home-court advantage and win all six games to be in a better position."
Local shooting guard Ng Han Bin insists that the Slingers remain title contenders despite their slow start this season.
Last season, Neo's men finished the regular season with a 13-7 record, and beat Alab Pilipinas in the play-offs to advance to the Finals, in which they were beaten 3-1 by Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.
Ng believes that they can repeat the 13-7 feat by winning the remaining games.
The 29-year-old, who has been with the Slingers since 2010, said: "In the past few years, it's shown that we have the capability to actually achieve it.
"This year is no different and we're looking to win it. So now, it's about taking one game at a time, and slowly build towards the play-offs."
He added: "We've got to do all it takes to get there.
"I think we have all the right pieces to the team, we just need to find a way to work together better and fix our weaknesses."
Swingman Xavier Alexander is eyeing his first ABL title with the Slingers after joining the team in 2015.
"My targets haven't changed since I came to Singapore", he said. "I want to win a championship, not just for myself, but also for the whole country.
"We haven't lost sight of that yet."
Although the season did not begin as well as he expected, Alexander pointed out that even their narrow losses reflect well on the team's abilities.
The 29-year-old said: "When we faced top-table teams like Hong Kong twice, we played very well.
"It wasn't successful as far as getting a win, but it showed that we're still that type of calibre team, just that we struggled early on.
"Getting into the play-offs, I think we'll be a very scary team once we get there."
The Slingers will take on bottom team, Taiwan's Formosa Dreamers, on Sunday.
However, Neo warned against complacency and called upon the locals in the team to step up.
"Formosa will play really hard and they are hungry to get a win, so if we don't get ourselves out there, then we might lose, which is not what we want."
"We have only three imports as compared to some other teams who have more, so we really need our locals to step up during every game, rather than just on and off."
SLINGERS' REMAINING GAMES
Feb 11 (Sun):
v Formosa Dreamers (home, 4pm)
Feb 25 (Sun):
v Saigon Heat (home, 4pm)
March 4 (Sun):
v Chongson Kung Fu (home, 4pm)
March 11 (Sun):
v CLS Knights (home, 4pm)
March 18 (Sun):
v Formosa Dreamers (away, 3pm)
March 24 (Sat):
v Saigon Heat (away, 5pm)