Painful Lesson: Hong Kong Looks to Bounce Back in Game 2 of ABL Finals

After the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions dominated the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) for majority of the elimination round and the semifinals, many people believed that it would be the same outcome in the ABL Finals. By many metrics, the Long Lions had a sizable advantage over the Singapore Slingers, the team that finished number two in the league.

But that was hardly the case in Game 1 of the ABL Finals. The Slingers were firing on all cylinders from tipoff until the buzzer sounded, dealing the Long Lions their worst loss of the season, 92-76.

For a team that a huge point differential, it was jarring to see Hong Kong unable to mount a comeback. According to World Import MVP candidate Marcus Elliott, what really doomed the team was a slow start, compounded by a red hot start by the Slingers.

We started out too slow, being a little passive,” Elliott shared. “We should’ve started out more aggressive offensively.”

Beyond their struggles from the field, Hong Kong also looked lost on the defensive end, as Justin Howard and Josh Urbiztondo submitted career games for the Slingers. Urbiztondo found the range from the perimeter in the first quarter, while Howard simply did whatever he wanted in the paint. Hong Kong was never able to stop the rhythm of the Slingers scorers, and thus were left in the dust.

We had a lot of mental lapses on the defensive end,” Heritage import Tyler Lamb admitted. “They didn’t do anything we didn’t expect them to do. We knew what their game plan was coming in. I give their guys a lot of credit. They came out and played a very hard. They knocked down shots when they needed to. And they came and got one at our house.”

“Starting out this game, I was just looking to get my teammates open,” Elliott said. “There were a couple of shots I passed up on being unselfish when I should have just go on ahead and take my shots and push the aggression.”

Aside from the slow start, the rebounding battle was handily won by the Slingers. Hong Kong was out-rebounded by Singapore, 57-36, giving the visiting team more opportunities to generate offense. The difference was made even more glaring, as the Slingers had a whopping 21-6 edge in offensive rebounds.

Elliott shared that the reason for Hong Kong giving up several offensive boards was the defensive commitment a red hot Howard forced on his team.

“We just gotta figure out a way to chase down long balls. Everybody’s down there trying to box out Howard, and those long rebounds because everybody’s crowding the paint. We just gotta figure out a balance.”

It became a vicious cycle for the Long Lions. Double or send help to Howard, and Urbiztondo would find the space to score. Leave Howard alone, and he scored (45 points – a new ABL Finals record).

Despite the 16 point loss, the Long Lions looked like a team determined to bounce back in Game 2. In a five game series, there will inevitably be adjustments done during the break in order to swing momentum. Right now, Hong Kong is back to the drawing board, looking to respond after surrendering home court advantage in the Playoffs.

We have a lot of things we can fix, and I have nothing but trust in my team that we’ll be able to make the adjustments that are needed,” Lamb said. “I think we deserve this championship. We worked hard all year, leading up this.”

The Slingers must brace themselves for a Hong Kong squad that will be desperate not to fall into an 0-2 hole. And for the Long Lions, they learned a tough lesson in Game 1: the Slingers are as hungry as they are for championship glory in the ABL. 

We gotta focus on Game 2 on Tuesday,” Elliott said. “Everybody knows we let this one slip. We’re just gonna have to come back on Tuesday and bust ass.”