Singapore Slingers suffer meltdown at OCBC Arena
Singapore side lose top spot after first home loss of the season
|singapore slingers||Hong kong eastern long lions|
This was a meltdown no one saw coming.
At half-time yesterday, it looked like the Singapore Slingers were cruising to an easy victory over the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions at the OCBC Arena.
After a shaky start, the home side raced to a comfortable 22-12 lead after the first quarter, and went into the halfway point 41-29 up.
When they then surged to a seemingly unassailable 20-point lead in the third period, there didn't appear to be any way back for the Lions.
But the Slingers got sloppy and paid the ultimate price, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory to lose the match 73-71.
In the process, they also relinquished their top spot in the six-team Asean Basketball League (ABL) table to the Lions.
"I am really, really disappointed," said a visibly downcast Slingers coach, Neo Beng Siang, after seeing his team suffer their first home defeat this season.
"I mentioned to the players that we had to come out strong in the second half because they had nothing to lose and would come at us.
"But, after a 20-point lead, we became sloppy and didn't really protect the ball well.
"We never really stopped them, especially (Marcus) Elliott with the three-pointers.
"That really killed us."
Howard, who had a team-high of 26 points, agreed with his coach's assessment.
When the Slingers were on song in the first half, Howard was making rebounds at both ends of the court, with swingman Xavier Alexander a perfect foil for the 35-year-old.
The 2.11m-tall player said: "The first half was more like us, but the second half we didn't finish them off when we could.
"We let them into the game, made mistakes and they converted all our mistakes.
"I missed a lot of key shots. We just couldn't put the ball in."
The last 10 minutes of the match was neck-and-neck stuff, but the Slingers' continued profligacy in front of the basket resulted in their third defeat over 12 games.
Neo said: "We want to win every game, especially at home, for all our fans who come to support us.
"Some of the players weren't sure of what they were supposed to do, but that's not an excuse.
"We need to buck up and get better in the next game."
With yesterday's result, the Lions' win-loss percentage of 0.778 propels them to the top of the table, with Slingers (0.75) in second place.
Howard said: "Any loss stings, but at home, it stings a bit more. But, with eight games left, we are still in control of our destiny. We will learn from this and move on."
TNP-Slingers contest winners get close to the action
Tony Loy had never watched a basketball game "live" - until yesterday.
Loy, 32, was one of two winners of The New Paper's Singapore Slingers contest, earning himself a pair of tickets to yesterday's game against the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions at the OCBC Arena, and a Slingers jersey.
Loy, along with the other winner Ng Sock Khim and her son, were seated so close to the court that they could hear Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang shouting to his players.
"I will definitely be back to watch more games," said Loy. It was also the first live Slingers game for Ng, a housing agent in her early 50s. "It definitely has been exciting to watch it live," she said.