Saigon Heat 66, San Miguel Beermen 63
Jason Rabedeaux is leading a charmed life since taking over as the Heat head coach. The Heat have rode a combination of stifling defense, clutch shooting and late opposition misfires to win four of their last six games. Their edging of the Beermen was just the latest example.
On the road in Manila against a San Miguel team that had won five straight, the Heat dictated a slow pace, keeping the scoring low and never letting the Beermen build a big lead. A tense game came down to the final minute. With the Ynares Arena crowd bellowing for a win, Froilan Baguion tied the game with a wing three. At this point, all the momentum was with the Beermen. But high-scoring guard Leo Avenido blew an open layup and then compounded the error by fouling out. From there, the Heat hit three free throws and watched Baguion miss a three at the buzzer.
The playoffs are still a possibility for the Heat, who get a long 10-day rest before meeting the Indonesia Warriors at Tan Binh Stadium on April 4th. A 6-2 record over their final eight games might be just enough.
For the Beermen, this is a loss they can shrug off. With a record of 10-4, they are likely locked into a 2nd-place finish in the ABL standings, thus earning home court advantage for the playoff semi-finals. But the streaky shooting of Avenido (33% from the field on Saturday) has to be a concern.
Indonesia Warriors 74, Bangkok Cobras 67
It may have been the thin mountain air in Bandung, but something was bothering the Bangkok Cobras right from the opening tip. In a matchup of teams battling for the fourth playoff spot, some questionable calls went against Bangkok and they let it get in their heads. The fourth quarter amounted to a meltdown for the Cobras. First their star Gentry Lewis fouled out with over four minutes to play. Then Marvin Cruz was whistled for his fifth foul on a dubious call. Cobras coach Jellybean Bryant blew his stack and ordered his team off the floor in protest. This was a bad move on two counts.
First, the game was still winnable. The Cobras were down by seven with 1:39 to go when they walked out. Its one thing to walk out of a blowout, but this was a three-possession game with 99 seconds left. A comeback was still doable, especially when the Cobras had been shooting a respectable 35% from 3-pt territory.
Second, protesting a game never works. The result will not be reversed by the ABL and the game won’t be replayed. There is no justification for it. Yes, there were some bad calls. That happens. Teams have to play through bad calls. (And if I had a dollar for every time a team thought they got a game taken away by the referees, I wouldn’t have to work for a living.)
The real culprit for the Cobras was a 9 of 24 performance at the free throw line. That’s not a misprint.
With a win at home on Saturday against San Miguel, the Warriors can potentially move ahead of the Westports Malaysia Dragons for the 3rd spot in the league standings.
Postscript: Unsurprisingly, the ABL took swift action, handing out undisclosed fines to the Warriors (for failure to provide a safe playing environment) and Cobras (for failure to complete a game). Cobras coach Jellybean Bryant drew a one-game suspension, for repeatedly walking onto the court and failure to stay in the team’s bench area. Most interestingly, Jai Reyes was fined for making post-game prejudicial statements and allegations on his Twitter account (you’ll need to look elsewhere for Reyes’s Twitter handle).
AirAsia Philippine Patriots 82, Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers 70
This was always going to be a tough game for the Slingers. The Patriots have rounded into postseason form and are tearing through the league. Nakiea Miller is (again) looking like the best player in the ABL. Anthony Johnson continues to pour it in offensively. And the Pats bench is far and away the best in the league.
Add to this the fact that the Singapore Indoor Stadium may as well have been Ynares Sports Arena, with all the Filipino fans in attendance, and the deck was stacked against Singapore from the jump.
The Patriots methodically broke down the Slingers defense with the inside-out game of Miller and Johnson. The Pats bench outscored the Slingers 24-11. The Patriots shrugged off the rugged performance of Kyle Jeffers (19 points, 13 rebounds in just his second game back) to build as much as a 15-point lead. Al Vergara returned to Singapore to burn his home team with 13 points.
The playoff lights are fading for the Slingers while the Patriots have the league’s #1 spot firmly in grasp with a record of 11-2 and a game in hand over the San Miguel Beermen.
Good free throw shooting is so rare in the ABL so we must salute the Patriots for going a sterling 19 of 21 (that’s over 90 percent) from the stripe in Singapore. Solid free throw shooting is one of many reasons the Patriots are a heavy favourite to win their second ABL title.
Chang Thailand Slammers 80, Westports Malaysia Dragons 69
Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that the Dragons were pushing the Patriots for first place in the ABL? That’s a distant memory now, as the Dragons have dropped four straight, and find themselves in a battle with the Indonesia Warriors for the league’s 3-spot.
Injuries have played a big part in the Dragons demise. Brian Williams has been sidelined since rolling his ankle in Saigon, and Tiras Wade missed Sunday’s game in Bangkok with a bad hamstring that kept him out of last week’s loss to the Patriots. Without their top scorers, the Dragons are left scrambling for offense.
But you wouldn’t have known it to watch the first 30 minutes of their game against the Slammers. The Dragons rolled off 46 points and led Thailand by 9 at the half.
From there Thailand took over. The latest in a revolving door of Slammers imports, Demetrius Proby and Calvin Williams, shot lights out in the second half, while leading a suffocating defense that held Malaysia to just 13 points in the 3rd quarter. From nine points down at the half, the Slammers led by four heading into the final period.
The offensive woes continued for the Dragons, as they could muster just 10 fourth-quarter points. Donald Little, a temporary replacement for Brian Williams, had just 4 points. When your starting centre is no threat to score, teams can sag off to defend, making life difficult on the offensive end.
The Slammers may have found the right import mix in Williams and Proby (43 combined points on Sunday) but have they left it too late? A record of 5-9 forces Thailand to go at least 5-2 down the stretch to have any hope of making the playoffs. And an obvious area for them to work on is 3-pt shooting. The Slammers won on Sunday despite shooting a ghastly 5 of 29 from outside the arc. Gah!
The Slammers will find out a lot about their new-look selves when they travel to Manila on Saturday to meet the league-leading Patriots. The Slammers wear the league crown the Patriots want back, oh so much.