Fast paced small ball is the trend in which basketball is approaching. Gone are the teams with two traditional big men banging and pounding the ball down low in a grind it down 15-18 second possession. Such a trend is headed to Southeast Asia as well. Welcome to the new, fast, and furious era of the ABL.
The KL Dragons are built for the Run & Gun small ball approach. All of their four imports (Avery Scharer, Moala Tautuaa, Chris Eversley, and Justin Knox) love to run, and not only do they run fast, they run hard. These guys get up and down the court and they look to either finish or get a foul . The Dragons run one of the quickest offenses in the ABL, with a 82.26 pace to lead the league by a comfortable 2.22 margin from the second fastest team, Laskar Dreya.
Pace is the estimated amount of possessions per 40 minutes.
Hi-Tech Bangkok City, on the other hand, are built for a more half court approach with their two inside guys, Steve Thomas and Chris Charles, and a slew of outside set shooters waiting for the moment when the defense doubles on the big men.
However, they are not a slow team, hanging slightly around the league’s average pace at 78.69 because they have “Roadrunner” Jerick Canada, the best outlet passer in the ABL Steve Thomas, and athletic freak Wuttipong Dasom running the fastbreaks to up the tempo.
In this game, the teams stepped on the pedal and didn’t touch the brakes.
27/09/14 WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS 90 – HI-TECH BANGKOK CITY 93 (OVERTIME)
Both teams clocked in 103 possessions, the highest for an ABL game this season.
To put things into a more simple concept we will change that number into possessions per minute, thus nullifying the effect of overtime games. In this game both teams had an average of 2.29 possessions per minute, the second highest in this ABL season. On average, that means that each team used only about 13 seconds per possession.
The Dragons and Hi-Tech pushed the ball at each other, forcing turnovers and driving straight to the basket on each possession. This resulted as the highest total of combined free throws and steals in game this season.
This type of fast pace exchange might have resembled a bit of how the games of those Denver Nuggets of the 1980’s played.
Pedal to the Metal
The Dragons enjoy pushing the pace and they usually dictate the tempo of these fast paced games. The top 3 fast paced games all had the Dragons involved in this season.
Interestingly enough, the Dragons lost 2 of those 3 games, one being this game and the other being a loss at the Indonesia Warriors home court. From a statistical point of view, the Dragons love to push the pace. But push it too far, and it comes back to burn themselves.
The Dragons fast paced offense starts with their aggressive ball pressure. They will attempt to force turnovers and to do so requires a lot of physical collisions between the offense and the defense.
With a league average of 18.67 team fouls per game, the Dragons blow away all of the competition by recording 22.87 fouls per game. With the league average of 1.74 personal fouls per game, 8 of the current Dragon Force exceed that number. That is the rate of a normal game for the Dragons. In this specific game against Hi-Tech Bangkok City, the fouls just kept piling up, eventually losing Ooi Ban Sin, Loh Shee Fai, and Moala Tautuaa by fouling out of the game. Their other main scorers, Chris Eversley and Justin Knox were also on the verge at 4 fouls, which clearly effected their aggressiveness in order to preserve that last foul.
Avery “Showtime” Scharer
I’m going to say it here first. My choice for the MVP of the 2014 ABL season is going to be Avery Scharer unless Falando Jones goes beserk and wins the last 4 games for Laskar Dreya. The Dragons were as talented with recent 2nd Round PBA D-League draft pick, Rashawn McCarthy, running the point guard during the first 3 games of the season, but they really took off once they got slotted Avery Scharer into the roster.
Avery plays like Jason Kidd on crack with Nick Young’s swag approach. He’s a stat-stuffer and a consistent threat to record a triple-double. You can count on him to record at least 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game and he’s the only player in the league that churns out those stats at this moment.
But aside from the numbers, Avery Scharer seems to have stepped up as the vocal and emotional leader for the Dragons. From an outsider’s perspective, the Dragons have many types of leaders on their team.
Ooi Ban Sin and John Ng are their veteran leaders as seasoned veterans. They lead with seniority and respectability.
Chris Eversley is possibly the most talented player on this squad, but he seems to not be very outspoken and fits the role as someone who leads by example.
But Avery Scharer is the definite floor general leader. You can see him barking out plays on the court. During timeouts sometimes he will take the coach’s chair and brief the game plan with his team mates first. He is the guy who starts the defensive pressure from half court on the opposing team’s guards and starts the fastbreaks on the rebounds and turnovers.
Scharer killed the Hi-Tech guards in crunch time with his long quick hands and penetration drives in this game and set the tone for the Dragons comeback.
As of right now, in my personal opinion:
Gimme more Ammo
As a pseudo mid-season acquisition for Hi-Tech Bangkok City, Wattana “Kanu” Suttisin has proved to be a capable scorer off the bench for Hi-Tech. Not only as a spot up shooter, Kanu has shown that he makes good use of those long strides towards the basket in his drives to create space for his shot release.
Kanu adds more dimension to the balanced Hi-Tech offense which has lacked a scorer who can take it inside forcing defenders to clamor inside the zone a little bit more, leaving space for the three point bombers to let loose.
Setting the stage
In a game which revolved around pace and aggressiveness, it seemed a bit ironic for the game to be decided on the slowest and least aggressive shot in the game: The Free Throw.
The Dragons were 12 seconds away from pulling away from the win with a 1 point lead before Wattana Suttisin intentionally fouled Avery Scharer to put him to the line. Scharer is not a bad free throw shooter, shooting at 68.2% and if he made these two shots, it would force Hi-Tech to pull out an open three point shot in 12 seconds.
Scharer missed one and set up the stage for this next play.
Canada has displayed his clutch prowess once, by icing the game with a late three point shot against the Saigon Heat.
Wong Wei Long is still on the top of my list for most clutch player in the ABL, but if Canada continues his knack for making big late game shots, I might have to change my mind.
Brush aside the fact that there was 12 seconds left on the clock, which should have been enough to set up a more structured play.
Brush aside the fact that Hi-Tech almost lost the ball pushing it up the court which would have cost them the game.
This was one hell of a shot by Jerick Canada which iced the frantic comeback by the Dragons, swinging the momentum to Hi-Tech into overtime.
Canada’s miraculous shot tied the game up, but still left the Dragons with 4 second to get a shot at the win. Coach Ariel Vanguardia called a timeout to setup the play for the last shot.
You have to give credit to Chris Charles as always for being the longest human being in the ABL, which made it possible for him to block this shot in time. But I am in a bit of doubt that that Justin Knox high screen to get Chris Eversley open to launch a 3 pointer was the best play that the Dragons could have come up with.
Fan of the Game
Guy in red shirt and glasses, I love passion.
Eyes on the prize
Hi-Tech were able to grab an outstanding road win in MABA stadium in this game, and they seemed to make the most of this trip.
Bangkok got style.
Cover Photo courtesy of Onvisa Thewpaingarm (KukThew)