The Kuala Lumpur Dragons and the Taipei Fubon Braves are both gunning for a bounce-back win as they face-off, Wednesday, at the MABA Stadium.
The Braves are currently sitting at the third spot behind Mono Vampire and San Miguel Alab Pilipinas with their 9-6 win-loss record as they have now suffered back-to-back losses on the road. The newest ABL team has been solid at home with six wins against two losses but they’ve had their struggles on the road where they have lost four of their seven games.
The Dragons are currently at seventh but they can move up the rankings, tying the Singapore Slingers for the fifth, if they pick up a victory. They are coming off their first loss at home so they would be extra inspired to get back to their winning ways.
After scoring a huge blowout victory against San Miguel Alab Pilipinas, the Dragons may have underestimated the Saigon Heat who are the current cellar dwellers of the league. Kuala Lumpur allowed Saigon to gain confidence early in the game and it cost them as the Heat had the stronger finishing kick. They were scorching hot against Alab but only made three triples against Saigon to lose, 79-72. The Heat also dominated bench scoring 19-2 and points off turnovers 16-4.
Cade Davis is usually a reliable scorer for the Dragons as he averages just a shade under 20 points per game. However, he was limited to only eight points on four of 16 shooting from the field. With Davis struggling from the outside, the Heat’s defense was able to shut down Kuala Lumpur’s other options.
The Dragons stayed in the game against the Heat even with their poor shooting from the outside because of Will Artino and Simeon Lepichev. The World Import had another double-double, which has been automatic for him this season, with 24 points and 15 rebounds while Lepicchev also did well with 11 points and eight rebounds. The two big men were efficient from the field at a combined 16 of 30 from the field.
One guy who was missing for the Dragons was veteran Kuek Tian Yuan. After getting 16 points and seven rebounds against Alab, he only managed three rebounds and failed to score a single point against the Heat.
A key matchup in this game will be between two World Imports who both play the point position. Amir Bell has been a consistent triple-double threat for the Dragons while so much of the offense of the Braves is hinged upon OJ Mayo’s individual talent. Bell averages 17.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game while Mayo scores more but produces lowed numbers elsewhere with 22.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists.
The Braves are coming off a tough overtime loss on the road against the Singapore Slingers in a game marred by confusion with free throws late in the game. However, Taipei Fubon will have to put that completely behind them and focus on the task at hand. The 106-99 defeat by the Braves knocked them down to the third spot but they can start making their way back up again starting with the Dragons.
Maxie Esho had one of his best games as a member of the Braves and it did not come as a surprise as he performed well on the floor where he won the ABL championship last season. Esho had an outstanding all-around game with 25 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals, and two blocks. With Mayo struggling from the outside with only one conversion out of 10 tries from the three-point range, Esho picked it up by draining five triples.
With Esho powering their offense from the outside, Charles Garcia has continued to take care of business inside for the Braves. A lot of big World Imports have already been replaced midway through the regular season but Garcia continues to play for Taipei Fubon as he is an integral part of their squad. He had another strong outing with 25 points and 10 rebounds on nine of 17 shooting from the field.
It will surely be an intense clash as the Dragons and Braves are raring to put their last losses behind them.