ABL Finals Game 1: Comfort Zone

I realize that it has been two weeks since the ABL Finals ended, which makes it two weeks since this article should have come out, but then again, I have a day job and to capture all of the things going on in these games takes so much time. This is the ending of a season, and after I had been following this league for the whole season, I wanted to go out on a high note.

The fun thing about following the league for the whole season is that as the season climaxes at the Finals, you will have known all the subplots that will be unveiling itself in these final stages. it’s fun enough to just go out there and enjoy the game, but the entertainment level kind of reaches a whole new level when you know that:

  • The Dragons have the best offence in the ABL while Hi-Tech Bangkok City have the best defense in the ABL.
  • The regular season series between these two were decided by 6, 3, 8, and 3 points going into overtime twice.
  • Hi-Tech Bangkok City are the only team to have beaten the Dragons at home. If you don’t count the meaningless last game against the Slingers, the KL Dragons are also the only team to have beat Hi-Tech Bangkok City on their home court.
  • Patrick Cabahug holding a grudge with the KL Dragons.

and that’s just a small part of what’s going on. Everything is boiled down to this moment and we all get to see how it turns out.

08/11/14 WESTPORTS MALAYSIA DRAGONS 77 – HI-TECH BANGKOK CITY 93

Hi-Tech just simply ran by the KL Dragons in Game 1 and here are few main points how that all happened:

Avery Scharer, Tones & Definition’s ABL 2014 World Import MVP

As I covered already in a recent article, I had Avery Scharer pegged as the World Import MVP of this year’s ABL season. As you all know by now, the ABL announced Chris Charles as the ABL 2014 World Import MVP (and deservingly so). It sent the ABL fans (mostly Dragons fans) in a mini rage throughout the social netwok, questioning how a guard who was a threat to get a triple double in every game on the team with the best record in the league did not win this award. I, myself, was bewildered a bit with this award as I had felt that this was one of the easiest award to get right.

Maybe Avery expected to get this award as well, and maybe that got to his head a little bit. Scharer played arguably his worst game of the season at possibly the worst time and stage ever.

One might point to his field goal percentage (29%) and say that he shot poorly which wouldn’t be correct as that is very abnormal from his season average of 45%, but that’s not why I rated Scharer’s performance in this game so poorly.

The fact is that Scharer wasn’t playing his usual game was the reason that left a bad taste in my tongue after seeing him dominate the league so efficiently.

Over the course of the regular season, Scharer had shot 0.77 three point shots per game. 3 was the season high of his three point attempts. Then game one of the playoffs rolled and he took 5 and 3 three pointers in both games against the Saigon Heat. He did make 50% of those three pointers, but that was more because the Heat defenders gambled with his shot efficiency rather than letting his cut them up with his drives. It was a gamble they lost ultimately, but it was a decent effort.

The Finals came and BOOM, Scharer takes 6 three point attempts in the first game. Piyapong Pioon, Patrick Cabahug, and any other Hi-Tech defenders did a good job of baiting Scharer into take those threes and in the end Scharer missed.

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You can’t really blame Scharer for not taking those open shots because, well, they are open shots. If you look back at this game though, you have a feeling that the Dragons coaching staff could have been a little bit more creative with that opportunity and Scharer should have been a bit more selective with his shots after missing 2 of them in a row.

But the main point is not that he missed those shot, but it’s because it’s not the type of game that Scharer plays. And it’s not the type of game that the Dragons play. When your star lead guard plays out of his tempo, so does the rest of the team.

Maybe Scharer was trying too hard. Going up against the World Import MVP, Chris Charles, maybe he was too fired up to go out there and prove a point that that title was his. And maybe that threw him off a little bit.

Or maybe it was this.

A scary moment in the game as Avery Scharer went for the layup, only to find Patrick Cabahug crashing into him, His head met Cabahug’s elbow and he went sprawling out of the court.

I am not going to be the one to say if this was an intentional play or not, because even watching that play live at courtside, it was hard to tell.

But one thing that you can conclude from this is that the League and each team should have a protocol set for blow to the head such as these. Concussions are something that must be approached immediately and treated immediately so it was kind of a depressing moment when I was approached by some Dragons fans that “Avery was playing through a concussion”. As much as the player wants to be on the court and as much as the team needs him on the court, he and the organizations involved should put more value into the future of his health. It’s good to know that eventually Scharer was okay, but this might be an issue that needs to be looked at into more detail.

Been there, done that.

That was definitely the tone that the core duo of Hi-Tech Bangkok City set for the away team. Jerick Canada and Steven Thomas have been together through 2 ABL Finals together and they played like they know what it’s like to be here which can only be said by only a handful of players on the court that day.

It might seem like a small part of the game, but pressure experience like these cannot be overlooked.

Hi-Tech Bangkok City had 4 players who has had experience in the ABL Finals (Canada, Thomas, Piyapong Piroon, and Attaporn Lertmalaiporn) who played a role on their respective teams. Canada has been here twice with the Indonesia Warriors and Thomas has been here every year of the ABL, two with the Philippine Patriots and two with the Warriors.

The KL Dragons are a young team and one with no Finals experience at all.

Canada played as calm as ever, and seemed to even step his game up a notch hitting clutch jumper after jumper.

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Canada went on to tie his season high of 23 points after being quiet on the scoring side throughout the season.

Steve Thomas was his usual huge self, but one of my most favorite moments of the game was when he saw Chris Charles starting to get agitated with the physicality of the Dragons, so he went over and dragged him out and gave him a lecture.

That there is leadership and experience.

Run them out of the Gym

It was impressive enough that Hi-Tech Bangkok City won in this away game by 16 points, only the Dragons second double digit defeat and their first at home. What’s more impressive is the matter of which how they won the game.

This game was won in the third quarter when Hi-Tech Bangkok City went on a run off a flurry of fastbreaks from Wuttipong Dasom and Patrick Cabahug.

Hi-Tech is by no means a slow team and they can get up and down the court so it is not surprising that they can win in a fast paced game. However, the fast paced game is supposed to be the Dragons specialty, so for Hi-Tech to go into the Dragon’s Den, play the Dragon’s game and come out victorious makes it all that much more impressive.

Dasom scored a season-high 21 points doing what he does best which is sprinting up on the fastbreak and finishing at the rim with his athleticism. Dasom scored a team high 10 field goals mostly in this manner, and you can ask Ooi Ban Sin for first hand experience exactly how athletic Dasom is.

It’s remarkable that this In-Your-Face throwdown came only a day after the ABL promotion spot where he said that he wanted to throw down a monster posterizing slam in the ABL one day.

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One foot in, One foot out

So that wraps it up for game 1 of the ABL 2014 Finals, as the Dragons played out of their own game and Hi-Tech played in theirs, resulting in an unexpected large difference win for the Thai side.

This sets up an interesting match up in Thailand for game 2, which is far from a sure thing for Hi-Tech Bangkok City. As aforementioned, Hi-Tech may have a formidable record at home, but that loss against the Dragons in Cabahug’s debut leave the window of opportunity wide open for the Malaysian team.

By now, the results are already out, so stay tuned for the review of Game 2 soon.

 

PS. I just needed this space to mention that none of us know what is going on under Moala Tautuaa’s beard and what he keeps under that glorious bush of hair.

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At this point, I’m afraid to ask.

 

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