It’s the first rematch of the 10th season of the ASEAN Basketball League as the Macau Black Bears will continue their road tour by facing off against the Taipei Fubon Braves, Friday evening, at the Taipei Heping Gymnasium.
The Braves are currently holding a 1-1 win-loss tally after splitting their first two games at home while the Black Bears have rebounded after their opening day defeat with back-to-back wins.
In their first meeting, Taipei Fubon edged the Black Bears in their first ever game in the ABL. The Braves took full advantage of the lack of ceiling from Macau as they banked on their bigs and slashers to pour in the points in the shaded area. The Braves also got a lot more from their deeper bench to secure the tight victory, 95-91.
A lot has changed after the result of that first game as Taipei Fubon fell to the Kuala Lumpur Dragons on the very next day. Perhaps still figuring out how to compete better on less than 24 hours of rest, the Braves looked like a tired squad against the former champions. They did their best to bounce back and even had a spirited run in the end game but it was simply not enough as they lost, 91-90.
The Black Bears, on the other end, quickly bounced back by scoring a win against the Macau Wolf Warriors in their next game. They followed this up with another win, this time against Hong Kong Eastern, 93-79. Macau once again banked on their three-point shooting as they torched the net during a big fourth quarter run that saw their four-point lead at the end of the third balloon to as many as 21 points.
Mikh McKinney led the attack for Macau as he finally got. Going from the three-point range. Last season’s leading scorer was a combined 2 of 20 in their first two games and it looked like his shooting struggles would continue at the Southorn Stadium. He finally got his rhythm midway through the fourth where he exploded with four triples en route to dropping 18 points in that period alone.
As usual, Brandon Edwards and Kenny Manigault were there to be McKinney back-up crew as the two posted solid numbers as well. Edwards had another efficient performance with 25 points on 9 of 11 shooting from the field including a perfect 3 of 3 stint from the three-point distance. Manigault failed to maintain his string of 30-point performances against Hong Kong Eastern but still managed to get 14 points alongwith eight rebounds and eight assists. Beyond the numbers, it was Manigault’s effort on defense that helped his team secure another victory.
For the Braves, it’s clear that they need to get more from veteran Tsai Wen-Cheng. His performance fell in their game against the Dragons as they absorbed their first defeat. Tsai needs to be another potent local scoring weapon for Taipei Fubon after Lin Chih-Chieh.
OJ Mayo had a much better performance after a lackluster ABL debut versus Macau and now he needs to show that he can lead the Braves in all aspects of the game.
However, the key in this match for the home team will be their bigs. Charles Garcia and Sim Bhullar need to take full advantage of their size against the much-smaller big man rotation of the Black Bears. If they remain dominant in the shaded area and keep Edwards off the boards, then the Braves could be in a great position to repeat over Macau.