Back-to-back wins are what that the Singapore Slingers need, especially after giving away an emotionally charged game 2 of the best-of-five ASEAN Basketball League Finals series.
Unfortunately for the Singaporeans, the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions were more resilient this time around.
Justin Howard of the Singapore Slingers drives against Joshua Boone of the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions during game 3 of the ASEAN Basketball League Finals. Photo: Sport Singapore
The visiting Long Lions showed their mettle and delivered a hard-fought 76-72 win to take game 3, sparked largely by Marcus Elliot and Joshua Boone.
Elliot flirted with a triple double, finishing with 21 points, nine boards and nine dimes and a plus-29 on efficiency. Boone, who sustained a right ankle injury in the final quarter of game 2, did not appear to be nagged by it and added 18 points.
For the Slingers, usual suspects Xavier Alexander (23 points, 13 assists) and Justin Howard (31 points, 23 rebounds) recorded double-doubles.
Earlier in game 2, the Slingers had cracked under pressure, despite striking gold with Elliot's ejection at the start of the third quarter. Game 3 became a must-win in order for the Singaporeans to claim home court advantage.
The Long Lions, riding on their momentum, were in control of the pace for most of the game, but the Slingers managed to bite back and keep the game level.
As crunch time approached, Joshua Urbiztondo knocked down a clutch trey for the home team, sending local supporters into a frenzy. Elliot, however, calmly returned the favor to silence the crowd.
In the following possession, an untimely foul by Urbiztondo on Chan Siu Wing and a crucial turnover by Justin Howard eventually doomed the local cagers.
Ng Hanbin of the Singapore Slingers drives against Steven Guinchard of the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions. Photo: Sport Singapore
The loss was a cause for concern for Slingers head coach Neo Beng Siang, who lamented the lack of local output from his charges.
"I think they don’t feel confident enough," said Neo, pointing out that the Slingers needed to remain calm.
Defensively, Hong Kong were more efficient than the home team, forcing 21 turnovers. They also held the Singaporeans to a dismal 13 per cent from the arc.
"That really killed us," commented Neo. “Anything more than 12 affects your game. That’s why we struggle from there.”
Game 4 will be played at the OCBC Arena on Sunday at 4pm.
“It is what it is,” said Neo. “We need to get ourselves ready as a team, come back in game 4 and hopefully we can bounce back.”
For the Slingers to claim ownership to the coveted metal, there is a desperate need for the local boys to step up on both ends of the court.
It is now, or never.