The game between Saigon Heat and Hi-Tech Bangkok City had been widely anticipated among local fans and ABL fans. Even after the Heat’s close loss to the Singapore Slingers that ended the prospect of a battle to decide the remaining undefeated team, the Heat were on an offensive rampage and Hi-Tech Bangkok City were beating other teams in every way possible. This was going to be a clash of titans.
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6/8/14 Hi-Tech Bangkok City 75 – Saigon Heat 59
The final seconds of the game are burning through and Justin Williams finally gets some free space in the paint. He leaps slightly, extends his arms and flushes it down. The game is out of reach already and you see a sign of relief on Williams face from finally being wide open inside.
At the end of the game, you can see Dustin Scott and Justin Williams drenched in sweat.
That is what you get when you run 4 of your 5 starters 37+ minutes. They will eventually get brutally worn down.
On the other side, you can see Steve Thomas getting fired up after every big play (which seemed like every play). You could see Chris Charles striding the lengths of the court faster than the other centers to finish the secondary break. It is not because they are anymore superhuman or have an incrediblly higher level of Stamina than that of the Saigon Heat side, it’s just because they played at least a full 3 minutes less that the main players of the Heat.
Hi-Tech Bangkok City had rotated 4 of their players into the game already by the time Saigon Heat made their first substitution, including some breathing time for Chris Charles. It might not seem like much of big deal when you look at it from a spectator’s point of view. Three minutes go by really fast. But while Justin Williams or Dustin Scott was banging it down low against the physical Chanachol Klahan for a full 4 minutes or having to go through the arms and timing of Sukhdavb Ghogar for 7 minutes, it really does wear you down a lot more than you expect.
The Heat wings were hounded by a Bangkok City’s combination of youth, quickness, length, and savvy which forced them to only 20% shooting from the three point line among the wing players alone. David Arnold, who is shooting 41.7% from long range (10-24), shot only 1-7 from three point range in this game.
Nakorn Jaisanook, Wuttipong Dasom, Montian Wongsawangtum, Bandit Lakhan, Piyapong Piroon, and Attaporn Lertmalaiporn are good defensive players in their own rights, but for Hi-Tech to be able to send all 6 of them out for around 10+ quality minutes per game is a blessing for Bangkok City. And a curse for the opposing team.
Take Piyapong Piroon, for instance. He played a total of 14 minutes in the 3 games prior to this game, and he was still able to churn out good defense, rebounding, and classy passing nonetheless in his 19 minutes this game.
That is probably the difference that won the game for Hi-Tech Bangkok city in this game. They were able to throw out any of the 12 players throughout the entire game to give their stars a breather, and they wouldn’t miss much of a step.
Twelve-on-five was what the media from Hi-Tech Bangkok City were preaching before and after game, and even if it might seem harsh, that was the story. The Vietnamese Locals are still very young and very inexperienced despite their potential. They would be mismatch targets on defense and pressure targets on offense when they entered the court. They have shown strides of improvement in their games. Tran Man Phan has been getting more agressive driving into the paint each game, drawing a foul on Steve Thomas in this one. Gia Lan Hong made the first field goal by a local player off a nice mid range catch and shoot. But they are still not at that level where Coach Jason Rabedeaux can leave them on the court for long stretches in a close game.
The cameras enjoy raiding huddles during timeouts to capture the intense game planning that goes on during the few valuable minutes. As a coach or a player, I would have loathed these interruptions to a point of almost bursting, but as a spectator, you get some gems out of it.
It took me a while to understand this. At first, I wondered if it had meant the 7 players that would play for Saigon Heat today, going up against the 5 players on the court for Hi-Tech Bangkok City, but that doesn’t make much sense.
Then I wondered, if it had meant that it was the five players on the floor, plus the staff coach as plus one and the fans as another plus one. But it still didn’t make any sense.
After watching the game more carefully, you could see that Coach Jason Rabedeaux had a couple of moments where he was clearly frustrated with the referees calls. You could see some moments where David Arnold would deliberately drive to draw contact and would come away with a tough lay up, no call, and a flash of anger.
Taking a wild guess here, Coach Rabedeuax was probably referring to the fans as the 6th man and the officiating as the 7th.
And maybe he had a point. The fans were into it all game and Hi-Tech Bangkok City fed off a lot of the crowds energy during their third quarter run. As for the refs, I wouldn’t go as far to say that they were playing for the opposing team, but certainly a lot of calls did not go the Heat’s way.
But that’s basketball and I know the refs are doing the best that they can night in and night out.
As a basketball team, all you can do is play your best so that the missed calls do not dictate the outcome of the game, and I feel that Saigon Heat and Hi-Tech Bangkok City really poured their all into this one.
Swiss Army Knife
Chris Charles (Hi-Tech Bangkok City) and Justin Williams (Saigon Heat) are the superstars, known for their scoring and shot blocking. Meanwhile, the other world import on each respective teams Steven Thomas (Hi-Tech) and Dustin Scott (Saigon), are the more versatile stars.
As featured once already, Steven Thomas, along with his tough inside banging presence and rebounding, is also a brilliant passer.
He’s currently fourth in the league in assists and his assists are always the highlight of the game with an array of no-look passes to pin-point dimes. He’s also a pretty solid mid-range shooter. Combine those two offensive weapons with his rebounding and defensive presence and you have a very complete basketball player.
On the other hand, the Heat have Dustin Scott who showed in this game that he has range way out of the three point line. He has shown that he can take the ball to the hoop off the dribble. He can also get the ball in the post and hold his own inside.
As a very versatile offensive player, he exploited the mismatch of Hi-Tech Bangkok City pitting the long but slower Chris Charles on him. It took an equally versatile defender like Sukhdavb Ghogar to slow him down. Even then, Ghogar would get bullied in the paint because he was smaller than Scott.
Versatile Players are always a need on championship teams.
Lock And Load
The Heat have two very good three point shooter in Leo Avenido (who has shown that he can light it up on any given night) and David Arnold (who is among the league leaders in 3 point percentage with high volume). What’s interesting is how they set up those shots for their long range bombers.
Take for instance, this play:
That was a total of three set plays to free up Leo and David. Let’s go through each variation:
In the first set shown, Baguion brings the ball up. David gets a double screen and is free to get the ball from Baguion.
This frees him up to take his own three, but the defense rotates just in time to put pressure on him to reconsider. Scott and Williams moves further on and Leo Avenido starts loading from the left baseline to the right wing while getting a double screen from the two bigs.
Not only does this set up a three for Leo, if the defense considers to switch and throw a big man onto Leo, it frees up either Scott or Williams for a mismatch.
Now let’s take a look at the second variation:
Leo gets an off-ball screen to get to the low post, if the defense falls asleep, David has an easy pass to Leo for the lay-up.
Man now moves from the baseline up to the top of the zone, accompanied by a double screen from Scott and Williams. This frees up the wing space for the final step.
Leo flips from the low-post and runs through a double screen to get to the wing. Scott does a good job of screening Leo’s defender and they get the wide open three.
In the final variation:
The same play is run here, albeit on the different side of the zone. The wing player gets a screen to cross to the low-post near the ball. The baseline wing gets a double screen to rotate the ball to the top of the zone. The low-post wing gets a double screen towards to the wing to set up the shot.
It sounds like an easy enough play, but it takes two big inside players who can sync their screens effectively and wings that run through screens well.
“The Thais have the Heart”
Sometimes, it just takes heart to change the flow of the game.
Wuttipong “Reuben” Dasom drove straight at Justin Williams, the League’s 2nd leading shot blocker, twice and he got rejected twice. But each time he went up with full force and the whole crowd could feel his determination to dunk on Justin Williams. Dasom didn’t succeed in that mission, but that determination fed of as energy for the rest of the team and it made sure that the lead held on till the final buzzer.
Raja Mortel might have concluded it best: “The Thais have the Heart.”