Malaysia Dragons level ABL Finals with Singapore Slingers
Malaysian side level series, Slingers coach Neo laments slack defence and blunt offence
WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS 83
SINGAPORE SLINGERS 67
(Best-of-five series tied at 1-1)
REPORTING FROM KUALA LUMPUR
This time, there was to be no spectacular collapse as the Westports Malaysia Dragons closed out the match 83-67 yesterday after leading the Singapore Slingers quarter to quarter.
The home victory tied the best-of-five Asean Basketball League Finals series at 1-1, with all to play for in Game Three at the OCBC Arena at 8pm on Friday.
Last Friday, the Malaysian side led in the first three quarters, only to implode and lose 80-84, with Slingers swingman Xavier Alexander coming up big against Dragons forward Calvin Godfrey, who got into foul trouble and scored just 10 points.
But, last night, in front of 2,500 fans at the sold-out Maba Stadium, Godfrey turned the tables with a disciplined performance.
Not only did the 25-year-old American minimise his disputes with the officials but, he also delivered on both ends of the court, scoring 15 points and claiming 16 rebounds.
He was ably supported by the Dragons' foreign players, all of whom contributed double figures in points.
Big centre and newly minted Most Valuable Player (import) Reginald Johnson grabbed 18 points and 12 rebounds, point guard Jason Brickman checked in with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, while MVP (Asian heritage) Matthew Wright nailed 12 points.
Godfrey, playing in the first finals series of his professional career, said: "The big difference (from Game One)for me was fouls. I stayed in the game without foul trouble.
"In Game One, I was out of character and had a go at the referees. Today, I was calmer and we played better as a team.
"Now that we have gotten one back, and knowing we have won in Singapore during the regular season, we have to be confident we can win at least one of the upcoming games there and regain home-court advantage, if necessary."
While Game Two was another entertaining affair featuring slam dunks, awesome rejects, angry coaches, no-look passes and even Johnson helping to mop the court in the third quarter, the field-goal percentages were rather poor.
The Dragons converted just 38.9 per cent of their 78 attempts, less than the 40 per cent they shot in Game One, which meant the Slingers had opportunities to win both away games and take a huge advantage back to Singapore.
But, on a night of cold shooting, Neo Beng Siang's charges sank just 32.4 per cent of their 74 field-goal attempts, way below the 49.2 per cent they managed last Friday.
Alexander (16 points, seven rebounds) was well marshalled by the Dragons, while Slingers centre Justin Howard (24 points, 14 points) fouled out with three minutes to go.
Neo, the new Coach of the Year, was disappointed with his team's poor performance, and said: "Our defence totally collapsed and, offensively, we couldn't convert.
"We also lost out on rebounds (the Dragons won 54 compared to the Slingers' 39).
"The only positive is we go back with one win, which is big for us because we now have home-court advantage and will be playing in front of our fans.
"Now we have to go back and work on our one-on-one containment and team defence rotation."
Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia, on the other hand, was more relieved than satisfied.
He said: "The Slingers came here to steal Game One and they did it, so there's nothing to be happy about for now.
"They have a good team, the Coach of the Year, the MVP (local, Wong Wei Long), so we cannot afford to be over-confident going into Games Three and Four.
"I thought we didn't get the calls today and I don't expect to get them in Singapore, so we have to play intelligently."
NEXT GAME FRIDAY
- Singapore Slingers v Westports Malaysia Dragons
(8pm, OCBC Arena, Singapore Sports Hub)