Malaysia bounces back, ties ABL Finals vs Singapore at 1-1
KUALA LUMPUR — The ball was moving and the defense was a lot better.
Learning from its mistakes, Westports Malaysia came together on both ends in a masterful win over Singapore, 83-67, in Game 2 to tie their 2016 ASEAN Basketball League Finals duel Sunday at MABA Stadium here.
Buoyed by a boisterous hometown crowd, the Dragons unleashed a fiery third-quarter run and never looked back to avoid a 2-0 hole as the series shifts to Singapore for Games 3 and 4.
“I think we were able to sustain our intensity defensively so we were able to make crucial stops, we were able to stop Alexander in transition and we made them an isolation team which is not their game,” said Malaysia’s Filipino head coach Ariel Vanguardia, who rued his team’s poor defensive effort following his team’s 84-80 loss in Game 1 last Friday.”
Fil-American point guard Jason Brickman flirted with a triple-double with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists while American imports Reggie Johnson and Cal Godfrey recorded double-doubles for Malaysia, which aims to get the lead in Game 3 on Friday at OCBC Arena.
“It was a big game for us we didn’t want to go down 2-0. They took Game 1. We had the lead in Game 1 but we didn’t finish in the second half. That was important this game, we were up seven or eight in the first half,” said Brickman, whose popularity was evident as he was mobbed by fans the moment the final buzzer sounded.
“We want to make sure we came out strong, play good defense and take care of the basketball. We did a pretty good job, well enough to put the game away,” he added.
Johnson, who was awarded Best World Import, had 18 points and 12 rebounds while Godfrey managed to stay out of foul trouble to give the Dragons a lift with 15 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks.
From a precarious 41-38 buffer, Malaysia pulled ahead, 58-40, after a putback by Godfrey with 3:34 left in the third quarter.
A triple by Wong Wei Long followed by a breakaway dunk by Xavier Alexander got the Slingers within single-digits, 68-59, with still 4:36 remaining.
But the Dragons responded swiftly with right corner trey from key reserve Loh Shee Fai off a setup by Brickman and the Slingers never threatened the rest of the way.
Shee Fai finished with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from long range to lead a strong performance by the locals.
Matthew Wright didn’t need to score as much with teammates Shee Fai, Chee Kheun Ma and Wong Wee Seng combining for 22 points. Wright had 12 points after a 22-point night in Game 1.
“I know that they’re ready. Fai gave us a lift, Ma stepped up today and then Wong made a couple of shots as well,” Vanguardia commended.
Justin Howard carried much of the load for Singapore with 24 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks. Alexander struggled with 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting and five turnovers after leading the way for the Slingers last Friday.