ABL Finals Game 3 Preview: Singapore Slingers vs Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions

The Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions looked in danger of yielding a 0-2 deficit to Singapore with the Slingers not having even played a home game yet, before Josh Boone delivered an awe-inspiring performance to will his squad to a crucial Game 2 victory last Tuesday, tying the 2016-17 ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Finals series at one win apiece heading to Game 3.

The World import, despite hurting is right ankle and playing virtually one-legged for most of the fourth quarter, fought with every remaining ounce of strength left inside of his banged-up body, making big plays on both ends which allowed the Long Lions to prevail. In the process, the top-seeded squad overcame Marcus Elliott’s ejection late in the third quarter after accruing two technical fouls.

By all indications, the finals series has been a war so far. Action has been intense. Emotions have ran high. Fans even got involved in the hostilities.

With stakes now even higher when Game 3 tips off at 8:00PM on Friday, April 21 at the OCBC Arena in Singapore, expect the same kind of a finals atmosphere as it’s going to be a heated race for the pivotal 2-1 series lead.

The Long Lions arguably have the momentum, as they have figured out the Slingers in Game 2 with more effective defense and aggressive offense.

“We agreed that we have to be aggressive on both ends, and we did that,” Hong Kong head coach Edu Torres said. “We just played more aggressive and physical.”

After allowing the opposing team to set records in the series opener, Hong Kong adjusted tremendously well on the defensive end. They won the rebounding battle in Game 2, 38-37. They forced a whopping 25 turnovers from the Slingers, which led to 31 extra points. They even outscored the Slingers, 54-30 in the paint with Boone’s 23 points, 16 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 blocks leading the way.

Elliott, despite getting tossed, played efficiently again prior to his ejection, scoring 23 of his 26 points in the first half. He shot 10-of-19 overall, and added 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Hong Kong as a unit shot 49% overall from the field.

But the Slingers are still in a good position. Playoff teams which start their first couple of games of a long series on the road usually hope for a split to negate the homecourt disadvantage and put themselves into their desired position when the series shifts back to their home floor.

The Slingers did that; they will now be at home for Games 3 and 4 where they can clinch their first-ever title in front of their home fans with back to back wins.

“We got two games at home to end it all, besides going home 2-0, you can’t really ask for more. I got confidence in my teammates, and in myself. [I’m] looking forward to Game 3 at home,” Xavier Alexander said.

It is easier said than done, however, and Singapore’s key players should return to their championship forms if they want the series done as soon as it possibly could.

Game 1 hero Justin Howard was limited to only 19 points and 12 boards last Tuesday, and worse, he committed 6 turnovers. Josh Urbiztondo only accounted for 9 points on the same number of shots, and had one assist.

Alexander did chip in 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists, but the Slingers need to get more from their locals as well. Leon Kwek had 8 points but shot only 2-of-10 from the floor while Wong Wei Long made only a single field goal in Game 2. Head coach Neo Beng Siang has also inserted Ng Han Bin and Harry Liew to his rotation, hoping to get more spark from his bench.