Slingers warned to guard against complacency
Slingers coach urges his charges not to get carried away after taking a 1-0 lead in the ABL Finals
|HONG KONG EASTERN LONG LIONS||SINGAPORE SLINGERS|
Don't forget what happened last season.
That was Singapore Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang's warning to his team, after they beat Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions 92-76 in the opening match of the Asean Basketball League (ABL) Finals at the Southorn Stadium on Saturday.
Neo hopes that his charges have learnt from last season, when they won Game 1 away against Westports Malaysia Dragons in the Finals but eventually lost the best-of-five series 3-2.
The 49-year-old said after his side's convincing performance in Hong Kong: "The effort and energy are there.
"We cannot get complacent with this win. We must get ready for Game 2 here on Tuesday.
"Like I said before, our mentality is to take a 2-0 advantage back to Singapore and win the title in front of our fans."
Judging by their five-star display on Saturday, the momentum is firmly with the Slingers, who are bidding to win their first ABL championship.
Multiple records fell as they delivered a devastating display at both ends of the court.
The Singapore side did everything Neo asked of them - defend well, restrict the opponents' three-point shots, win more rebounds and commit less turnovers - and then some.
The 16-point loss suffered by regular-season winners Eastern was the Hong Kong outfit's worst defeat in their debut season.
Justin Howard and Joshua Urbiztondo set new ABL Finals scoring records by notching 45 points and seven three-pointers respectively. Howard also claimed 28 rebounds for another Finals mark.
Howard's tally of 10 points and Urbiztondo's two three-pointers helped the Slingers lead 24-21 in the opening period, as they successfully restricted the highly vaunted Eastern duo Marcus Elliott and former NBA centre Joshua Boone to just one point.
The first half turned into a scoring contest between Howard and Eastern forward Tyler Lamb. But Lamb's 18 points were no match for the Slingers centre's 26, as the visitors took a 46-41 half-time lead.
While Elliott improved with a 13-point effort in the third quarter, Urbiztondo kept the hosts at bay, draining three straight triples to widen the gap to 68-58.
With swingman Xavier Alexander also contributing 14 points and nine rebounds, the Slingers made sure of a morale-boosting win ahead of tomorrow's Game 2 at the same venue.
Neo said: "Everyone played a part. We had 57 rebounds, Justin came up big with 28, but Delvin (Goh, five), Mitch (Folkoff, six) and Xavier (Alexander, nine) also contributed in getting the ball and pushing it out quick."
Howard added: "We played good defence to hold the league's No. 1 scoring team (91.4 points per game before the Finals) to 76 points, that enabled us to get a good win and I'm very happy about that.
"With hard work, my team put me in a good position to get the baskets. They believed in me and I was able to knock them down.
"But Game 2 is going to be a new game, everything is zeroed out. They are going to come out strong.
"We came here to get the win and we did our jobs, so all the pressure is on them now. Last season's loss hurt really bad so I'm sure we learnt from that."
Eastern coach Eduard Torres was gracious in defeat and urged his team to show more desire in the next match to avoid going 2-0 down.
The Spaniard said: "Congratulations to the Slingers because they were much better than us from the first minute.
"I accept responsibility for the defeat. The coach has to improve first, and then the players.
"We have lived off our good moments in the past. Now we have to learn that there can be bad moments, and we have to be tougher and more aggressive to win our next match."