The Chang Thailand Slammers had endured two agonizing losses to begin the ABL season. After dropping a 56-50 defensive tussle to the JobStreet.com Singapore Slingers, they lost at home to the Saigon Heat 77-75 in a game that came down to the final shot. And while all the hard work of Jellybean Bryant and his coaching staff getting the Thai players ready for the 2013 season had resulted in improved confidence and shotmaking for Wacharapong Tongrsi, Wuttipong Dasom and others, it hadn’t translated into wins. Plus, Justin Howard came up hobbling in the loss to Saigon, forcing the Slammers to bring in former Villanova centre Chris Charles.
So it was an inopportune time to come up against a Westports Malaysia Dragons squad who were coming off an impressive road win in Saigon to start their season. (Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia said his team was fired up by reading a column suggesting Malaysia would finish behind Saigon in the ABL standings. The column was written by…by… just checking my notes…oh, here it is…someone named Fean Sarquhar. Man, I don’t know what that guy was thinking.)
The Slammers started well, establishing their outside game, while Chris Charles established his presence in the paint. A Froilan Baguion three-pointer at the end of the first quarter gave the Slammers a 24-21 lead.
But the Dragons, led by Cedric Bozeman, stuck to their transition game and soon dictated an up-tempo pace that the Slammers couldn’t deal with. Malaysia led by as many as 22 points, too much for the Slammers to overcome. A late comeback got them within 4, but no closer.
Thailand may have found a centre in Charles, who finished with 20 pts and 13 rebounds. Froilan Baguion followed up his ABL-record performance of 17 assists by handing out 12 dimes in the loss. But Thailand continues to implode at the free throw line. By going 15 of 24 at the free throw line, the Slammers now have a season free throw percentage of 53%. That’s ugly.
For Malaysia, Cedric Bozeman is already a star. His line after 2 games? 23.5 pts, 60 FG%, 9.5 reb, 5.5 ast, 4.5 stls. Just sensational. Throw in a double-double average from Gavin Edwards, Pat Cabahug’s 14.5 pts, and an improving Malaysian contingent, and you have a Dragons team that overcomes its lack of size with quickness and accuracy.
In the Saturday nighter, the Saigon Heat hosted the Indonesia Warriors, who continue to go without star guard Stanley Pringle. But it wasn’t a taxed backcourt that was the problem for Indonesia; instead, it was a simple case of poor shooting. Steve Thomas (3 of 13), Jerick Canada (0 of 6), Richard Smith (4 of 11) all built a brick house for the Warriors, who also went a dismal 6 of 15 (40%) at the free thow line.
For all their shooting woes, Indonesia
stayed close to Saigon as the Heat had scoring problems of their own. Shooting guard Jai Reyes converted just 25%
of his shots, and Karl Dehesa finished 1 of 7 from the floor.
And the Warriors had a chance to tie with
under15 seconds to play. After two
Dehesa free throws made it 75-72, Jerick Canada was fouled bringing the
ball up the floor by Jai Reyes. Then
things got weird.
A replay shows Reyes fouled Canada in the
Warriors’ backcourt. Indonesia then set
up for the inbound play. John Smith
(playing against his former team), inbounding from the Heat’s half of the
court, inbounded the ball into the Warriors backcourt and was called for an
over-and-back, turning the ball over to Saigon.
Indonesia coach Todd Purves argued the call in vain, saying the foul
that led to the inbound play occurred in the Warriors backcourt, thus Smith
could inbound into the Warriors half. It
appears the confusion arose from where Smith was placed. If he had been inbounding from his own half,
then it wouldn’t have been an issue.
Saigon, wasting no time, promptly inbounded the ball to Phillip Morrison and he scored on the lay-up to make it a 77-72 final. Dior Lowhorn had 26 pts and 12 reb, along with 14 from Jai Reyes to pace the Heat. Saigon punished Indonesia at the free throw line, converting 17 of 22. The Warriors missed 9 free throws in a game they lost by 5. Your 2012 ABL champions remain winless.
Important Note: The ABL has reviewed the play and issued a statement earlier today, acknowledging an officiating error occurred. You can read the statement here: [Link to statement]
A look ahead to this week’s games:
Indonesia Warriors vs Malaysia Dragons, Tue Jan 22nd, Jakarta
This is the Dragons 3rd straight
game on the road. A win here and
Malaysia would be a sexy 3-0 heading back to MABA Stadium for a pair of
games. But this game is of paramount
importance to the Warriors. They’ve been
bounced twice in a row to start the season. A loss would leave them 3 games behind league leaders Malaysia. In a 22-game season, a 3-game deficit is hard
to overcome. This is not where the 2012
champs expected to be.
Malaysia Dragons vs Indonesia Warriors, Sat Jan 26th, Kuala Lumpur
Always fun when teams play each other
back-to-back. By the start of the 2nd
half in Game 2, the Dragons and Warriors will be damn sick of looking at each
other. Watch for a lot of hissing,
snarling and flying elbows. This game is
Malaysia’s home debut, and a solid start to the season means cozy MABA Stadium
will be rocking.
Thailand Slammers vs Singapore Slingers, Fri Jan 25th, Bangkok
It’s the Slammers 4th league
tilt in 13 days. By ABL standards,
that’s a busy schedule. Thailand will
have played 4 games before the San Miguel Beermen have played 2.
The Slingers won the rugby test game when
they met in Singapore, but in unconvincing fashion. Singapore couldn’t even break 60 against
Thailand. That won’t work in Bangkok, as
the Slammers have substantially improved their offense over their last two
games. Rashad Jamal-Jennings, in his Slingers debut, needed 16 shots to
generate 11 points of offense. JunjunCabatu,
also in his first game, was shaky from outside, nailing just 3 of 11. These are two teams still filled with
questions marks. (This game is Live on
ESPN on Fri Jan 25th at 8:00 pm HKG time).
Saigon Heat vs San Miguel Beermen, Sat Jan 26th, Ho Chi Minh City
Some intrigue here. Both teams have now beaten the league
champion Warriors, although the Beermen got it done on the road in
Jakarta. The Heat are, er, hot, having
won back-to-back games as they entertain San Miguel.
It’s been an awkward start to the season
for the Beermen. They geared up for the
start of the season in mid-January, played one game, and then had two weeks
off. Saigon, meanwhile, have already
played 3 times. The Beermen have great
personnel, but the Heat have momentum.
Also, did you watch the livestream of the Heat-Warriors game Saturday night? Tan Binh Stadium was ready to spontaneously combust in the 4th quarter! Saigon is now a tough road trip for the rest of the ABL, with the Tan Binh crowd serving as the Heat’s unofficial sixth man.