The BTN CLS Knights Indonesia drew first blood in the ASEAN Basketball League Finals with a convincing 86-67 road victory over the Singapore Slingers, Friday, in front of a stunned crowd at the OCBC Arena.
The Knights’ three World Imports put their fingerprints all over the lopsided contest. Maxie Esho poured in 24 points, including three triples, alongside eight rebounds, and three assists while big man Darryl Watkins had a huge double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds. Not to be outdone, Douglas Herring put up an all-around performance of 17 points, six boards, and six dimes.
The Knights came out sharp and aggressive right from the get-go, setting the tone early. After halftime, they put their feet on the gas pedal and never looked back.
“We played good defense, especially in the third quarter. I wasn’t happy at halftime because we were winning by one point but I thought we should be winning more,” assessed Knights coach Brian Rowsom as his wards turned a one-point lead to a 13-point edge by the end of the third. “We missed a lot of easy shots. We gave them second [chance] shots but we played very well in that third quarter and that was the key.”
As the Knights attacked Game 1 with hunger and vigor, unfortunately, the same could not be said about the Slingers. The Singaporean squad ran out of the gates lethargic. Spoils of their 15-day break since finishing their semifinals matchup were in full effect as they played flat offensively and fell right into the defensive game plan of the Knights.
Xavier Alexander and John Fields scored 19 points apiece but the Slingers ultimately lacked the firepower to keep up. Things went bad to worse as Jerran Young suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury, forcing him to miss nearly the entire second half.
“We just talked about being disciplined and playing the correct way on defense. If we do that the game will come our way,” shared Esho. “Also in the second half, they didn’t really have Young so that also helped us and play to our advantage. We’ll continue to play to our advantage if he’s out in the next couple of games.”
The Knights shot 50 percent from the field while limiting the Slingers to just 39 percent. They also controlled the shaded area, owning a 50-28 edge. Despite the lack of experience playing in the Finals, the Knights showed no fear.
“I told them that we just had to focus on us – just keep playing the way that we’ve been playing against Mono and Saigon and we did that,” said Rowsom.
Though the Knights won Game 1 handily, coach Rowsom expects a different Slingers squad come Sunday for Game 2.
“They know that if they (Slingers) lose Game 2, it might be over so they’re gonna give us everything,” he said. “I’m gonna tell our guys if we can win Game 2, it’s a great chance for us.”