The Dragons’ Den proved to hot for the Saigon Heat to handle.
A tremendous shooting display from the Westports Malaysia Dragons burned the Saigon Heat, as they won 91-87 at the MABA Stadium, Kuala Lumpur.
The win snapped the Heat’s three game losing streak, while the Dragons won their second straight game in impressive fashion. The Dragons matched the high scoring Heat on offense, making 15 triples compared to Saigon’s 14. They shot impressively from the field, finishing at 40% clip compared to Saigon at 35%.
The Dragons’ defense frustrated the Heat at times, as several of their key players were unable to find their groove on offense. Dragons’ Head Coach Chris Thomas credit his players’ preparation for this challenge.
“We were able to stay disciplined and stay dedicated to the game plan,” Thomas said. “That’s a product of our depth, and a product of our willingness to sacrifice individual numbers for the greater good of the team. I think our overall depth tonight was the factor, and having guys like AJ [West], Marcus [Marshall], Josh [Munzon], all of our local players, my goodness everyone that stepped foot on the floor played well.”
West was heralded as best player of the game, notching an impressive double-double performance of 19 points and 16 rebounds. He also held down the paint for Malaysia, swatting away 5 shots. Heat World Import Maxie Esho struggled in his battle with West, as he scored 15 points on 6/18 from the field.
“I came in about three weeks ago with the goal with coach to bring a winning culture to the team,” West said in his post-game interview. “It took a little while, but we feel like we’re on track to be a great team, a playoff team. Today was just a culmination.”
The Dragons were led in scoring by the electric World Import Marcus Marshall, as he tallied 25 points highlighted by 7/18 shooting from beyond the arc. He teamed up with Heritage Import Josh Munzon down the stretch to seal the victory for the Dragons, as they took turns hitting clutch triples to put the game away despite the Heat’s best efforts to make a comeback. Munzon tallied 18 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks to help his team claim the victory.
The Dragons started out of the gates slowly, as the Heat built an early advantage from hot shooting from World Import Akeem Scott from beyond the arc. They would lead 10-3 midway through the first period, before Ting and Marshall took over. They made three straight triples to grab the lead which would not be relinquished until the second half.
The Heat were uncharacteristically ice cold from beyond the arc early, as they failed to make a triple in the second period to go 3/12 at the end of the first half. The Dragons capitalized by building a 10 point lead, 50-40.
However Saigon would wake up in the third quarter, as the normally pensive Coach Kyle Julius exploded at his players during an early timeout in the third period. That woke up the Heat, as they went on a 23-9 run to take the lead once again via a triple from Maxie Esho at the 3:09 mark.
The Dragons would stay cool under pressure, as they responded via Marshall’s scoring binge to finish the third quarter still up 3, 69-66. And with West flexing his muscles in the paint as Marshall and Munzon scored from the perimeter, the Dragons found the antidote to stop the rampaging Heat in the end.
The Dragons also saw another solid performance from promising local player Ting. The youngster notched an efficient 13 points on 5/9 from the field, to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. He scattered three triples in the contest, much to delight of everyone in the MABA Stadium.
The Heat wasted a career night from Scott, as the World Import finished with an impressive 44 points, second most total in the ABL this season. He also had 5 rebounds and 8 assists. Heritage Import Player of the Week Mike Williams was held in check, as he finished with a measly 1 point on a frigid 0/11 shooting.
“The key was trusting my guys,” Thomas said. “We have 12 guys that can play. Unfortunately we have some injuries tonight where we couldn’t play our normal rotation, But our 12, our team composure, our ability to play multiple guys at multiple positions I thought really hurt them in the end.”
This loss is the 11th straight loss at MABA Stadium for the Saigon Heat, as the Vietnamese-based squad has never been able to log a win in this venue.
The Heat will look to start a new winning streak as they take on Mono Vampire Basketball Club on January 21 at the CIS Arena. They fall to 4-3, still in third place in the standings.
The Dragons will look for three straight wins as they prepare to host their rivals the Singapore Slingers on January 21. They climb to 3-4 in the ABL standings.