Tough ABL play-off start for Slingers
But Singapore outfit confident of overcoming a team they twice failed to beat in regular season
The Singapore Slingers face a tough obstacle in the first game of their Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-off quarter-final today.
Standing in their way are Thailand's Mono Vampire, a team they failed to beat in both match-ups during the regular season and finished fourth, one spot above them in the table.
Despite that, Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang and shooting guard Ng Han Bin have urged fans not to read too much into the record.
|SINGAPORE SLINGERS||MONO VAMPIRE|
Both pointed out that the Slingers are now a very different side with the arrival of American Christien Charles, as compared to the side that struggled early in the season.
In the first defeat by Mono - a 90-78 loss - last December, Charles had yet to join the Slingers, who had import forward Ryan Wright of Canada in their line-up.
When they lost to the Thai outfit 91-88 a month later, the 2.16m-tall American centre Charles, who was signed as Wright's replacement, was playing in just his fourth match for the Slingers.
Ng told The New paper: "For the first game against Mono, and the second game, we had two different teams.
"(In the second game,) Chris had just come back from injury and it was also one of the first games we played with him.
"He needed time to adjust to us, just as how we needed time to get used to his playing style as well.
"So, compared to how well we've all gelled now, I don't think that game was a good gauge of our strength."
Neo admitted that they had lost the first game due to defensive lapses, and switching Wright for Charles a month later gave the team more presence under the basket.
Neo added: "In our second game against Mono, we had just picked up Chris who had sat out for a year due to back injury.
"He was still quite game-rusty and picked up early fouls, so we struggled with our defence and started off slow.
"We had a chance to catch up and got close, but we didn't capitalise on that.
"But, to be honest, we can't really compare those two games because they were two very different teams."
The Slingers were not the only ones who had made adjustments to their squad mid-season, though.
Mono also strengthened their line-up with the injection of two towering imports, 1.98m-tall forward Michael Singletary and 2.26m-tall centre Samuel Deguera, both of whom featured against the Slingers in mid-January.
Asked if the Slingers have a special plan to keep Deguera on a tight leash, Neo laughed and said: "That seven-foot giant...we really need to stay active to deal with him.
"It might be a gamble, but if we're struggling, then we might have to double down."
The Slingers play their second game against Mono at home on Sunday.
The first team to win two matches progress to the semi-finals, where regular-season table-toppers Chongson Kung Fu lay in wait.
Neo is determined to go all the way this time round, after losing two straight ABL finals.
He said: "Fans can expect a new and aggressive Slingers in the play-offs.
"The team have had a good break and I reminded them that everyone in the team is accountable not just in training, but in games as well, so they're definitely ready."
Ng echoed his coach's confidence and added: "In this league, any team can beat the others, so as long as we adjust ourselves to the game plan and stick to it throughout as a team, then the results will take care of themselves."