First meets worst today in Jakarta as the Indonesia Warriors host the Chang Thailand Slammers. Everything points to an easy win for Indonesia. Consider:
So there would appear to be no way for Joe Bryant and Thailand to win this game, right?
Hogwash. The Slammers can pull off the upset of the season. Here’s how:
Capitalise on Ring Rust
Indonesia hasn’t played in 19 days. 19 days. Do you know what’s happened in the last 19 days? The Miami Heat won 15 straight, the Pope called it a day and Dennis Rodman came very close to unifying the two Koreas. 19 days is a loooong time. Is it unreasonable to think that the Warriors might be a little sluggishcoming off the beaches of Bali?
Thailand, by contrast, played last week and looked sharp in beating the Heat in Saigon. Thailand also knows that their upcoming Saturday game has been pushed back, so they can go all out in today’s Warriors game. The Slammers can take advantage of the Warriors’ rustiness by pressing in the backcourt early and often. Spread the floor and force Indonesia to make the extra pass.
While the Slammers will unload both barrels tonight, do the Warriors need to save something? The Warriors play again in 48 hours time, with their archrivals the San Miguel Beermen coming to town. The Beermen have already beaten the Warriors in Jakarta once this season, and another win Friday gives San Miguel the head-to-head edge. In worrying about San Miguel, will the Warriors turn today’s contest into a trap game?
Extend Indonesia’s Interior Defense
Chris Charles can take it the rack with the best of them. But he also has a surprisingly good mid-range jumper and is accomplished at shooting over his defender. It’s the latter weapon he should use against Steve Thomas, who is a terrific defender around the rim. Charles needs to draw Thomas away from the basket and force him to play Charles’s game. Charles can go over Thomas all game long – IF he gives himself space to operate in.
Tell Froilan Baguion its 2010 All Over Again
Nearly three years ago, Baguion led the Philippines Patriots to the ABL title, defeating Satria Muda Britama, the franchise that would become the Indonesia Warriors. That was the first of two titles Baguion would claim, as he came back and led the Slammers to the 2011 title over the same Patriots.
The Froilan Baguion we see today hasn’t missed a beat since those title runs. He leads the league in assists, is in fantastic shape, and has a renewed hunger to win.
And he knows how to beat an Indonesian team. Plus, he played with Steve Thomas (a former Patriot) so can do some insider trading with his teammate Charles.
Send Indonesia to the Line
In their last two games, the Warriors have shot 12 of 23 (52%) from the free-throw line. 52%. Meh. This is an area of the Warriors’ game that must cause coach Todd Purves some concern.
(23 free throws is also what a statistician would a call a small sample size. But if you want in-depth statistics with no hint of bias, you are reading the wrong column.)
Any way you slice it, the Slammers can beat the Warriors in this facet of the game, just provided Thailand…
Hits Its Own Damn Free Throws
Thailand has made 34 of 50 (68%) from the stripe in its last two games. Not lights out, but might be just enough to get the job done tonight.
Meet the New Kid in Town
Darrius Brannon makes his Slammers’s debut tonight. Can he make an immediate impact? Did Sammy Monroe, Justin Melton and Matt Rogers make an impact in their first games this season? Yes, yes and yes. Brannon has a chance to do the same.
Brannon is a dual US-Rwandan citizen who comes to Thailand straight from the Mexican leagues. He played college ball at the University of Houston, the same school attended by Elwin Hayes, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. What does that any of that have to do with beating Indonesia? Nothing, just thought I’d throw it in.
Fly High with Thai Guys
Joe Bryant has shown a lot of faith in his local players this season and it is paying off. Thai players accounted for 32 points – 32! -- in the Slammers 76-58 win over Saigon last week. That is a major contribution from the Thai contingent.
And how about Wutipong Dasom? 16 points on 60% shooting (with much of that coming on jump shots) to beat the Heat. This is a guy who barely played last season. Now Dasom gives the Slammers an added dimension on offense – and one more thing the Warriors have to worry about on the defensive end. The more the Thai players get involved offensively. and spread the floor, the harder it will be for the Warriors to put two defenders on Charles and Brannon.
So all the ingredients are there for a road win. Now, did Joe Bryant ask for my advice? No. Has he forgotten more about basketball than I will ever know? Yes. But none of that changes the fact that Thailand has enough talent and momentum to defeat the ABL Champions and spring the biggest upset of this young ABL season.