This game was certainly worth the wait. Now all it needs is the proper rivalry name.
It’s been three seasons since Thailand had fielded two teams in the ASEAN Basketball League back when the Bangkok Cobras and the Chang Thai Slammers were in the mix. Now, after the long wait, ABL fans (especially Thai fans) get to witness the Bangkok Brawl once again.
Final Score: Hitech Bangkok City 80 – Mono Vampire 74
Ever since the Mono Vampires had confirmed their intent to participate in the ABL, their potential matchup against Hitech Bangkok City was marked as one of the key highlights of the league already. Not only were they the top two teams in the Thailand, they had also been locked up in classic games in the Thailand Basketball league where the games were decided by a margin of no more than 3 points.
If there were 4 games that I would promise myself not to miss this season, it would be the 4 games between the two Thai teams. I’m obviously biased as a Thai native, but the back story and rivalry between the players and teams are just too compelling.
Hitech Bangkok City burst out on the scene early with Tyler Lamb showing his long range shooting as usual. He would end the first quarter with 10 points and finish off the first half with a last second three point shot.
[I’d totally post a video link here, but the quality of the shot I have is so bad it might be just better to give benefit to the people who went to watch the game live that got to see it.]
If you are keeping track, that makes his 2 for 2 on last second first half ending three pointers in 2 games. I don’t know what the hell that means, but it’s a cool number to point out.
Hitech Bangkok City may have taken a 23-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, but if you were a Hitech Bangkok City fan, you could probably have felt a bit uneasy. Chris Charles was forcing a lot of shots. Freddie Goldstein collected two quick fouls and seemed to be limping all over the court from an old injury.
Mono Vampires took only a brief 2 point lead in the 2nd quarter, but they looked more calm and composed than Hitech Bangkok City.
Let’s take a brief intermission to some moments I gathered leading up to this game.
I had the chance to attend the practice sessions of both the Mono Vampires and Hitech Bangkok City before the big game day. What I experienced was the difference in the tension of the two teams. Mono Vampires, being the new team in the ABL (using mainly locals) and recent Thailand Basketball League champions, probably had less to prove in this game and it showed in their casual approach in practice. They practiced hard, but they seemed a bit more loosened up.
(I know the picture above was from their practice session in Davao…but I really couldn’t find a better picture from my phone)
Cut to Hitech Bangkok City. They were trying to be lively. Steve Thomas was joking around as usual. Kannawat Lertlaokul was going around with his laid-back ways. Sukdave Ghogar was still walking around in his swaggy stroll. But there was a tension in the air that screamed lightly in the back of everyone in attendance’s head saying “You can lose any game this season, except this one“. If team owner, Nipondh Chawalitmontien, actually said something along those lines in their final huddle, I would have not been surprised.
The tension (or in Mono’s case, lack thereof) showed in the game. Hitech, seemed like (for lack of better words) they had something stuck up their asses all the time. They had that look in their eyes that said “I can’t miss this shot” or “I can’t screw up this play“. I guess it is good to stay focused, but if you focus too much, it eventually backfires.
Mono Vampires, on the other hand, looked wild and free. They knew how much this game meant, but they didn’t let it get into their heads.
Most importantly, they looked like they were having fun. And that was what probably what kept them close despite Hitech’s early outbursts and what put them ahead when Hitech slowed down. Mono Vampires were enjoying a series of block shots from their towers, McClain and Okolie, and it led them to some good fast break opportunities. Couple that with a some big three point shots from “JO” Ratdech Kruatiwa, and Hitech suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of an 8-0 point run to be down by 8 points on their own home court.
The defending champs were rattled. During that run, Head Coach Jhing Ruiz had to remind his team that it was only 5 points. That it was only the third quarter. That there was plenty of time left.
He didn’t say tell them that they should go out there and try to enjoy themselves a bit more, but luckily for him, Freddie Goldstein is one hell of a fun player. Freddie would come out of that time out and within the span of one minute, he would go on a personal 8-3 run with two three point shots and an elbow jumper that would make any coach pull his hair out.
That brought Hitech Bangkok City back to life. Freddie Goldstein, who was plagued with foul trouble since the opening quarter, picked up his fourth foul before the end of the third quarter and was forced to head to the bench. But he lit a fire in the hearts of Hitech Bangkok City which drove them forward.
Kannawat Lertlaokul and Piyapong Piroon would prove to be huge parts of the Hitech Bangkok City run in the 4th quarter. Kannawat came in and settled down the offense while Piyapong Piroon brought out the cannons to drop two big three point shots.
Mono Vampires would still not go away as they had timely retorts to Hitech’s big baskets, but in the end it would be Hitech’s wildcard yet again that would deliver the blow.
The quality of the video is pretty bad (please do something about that ABL), but it’s basically just Freddie Goldstein driving into the basketball and throwing the ball up in the air. Like literally throwing it up in the air. The floater would put Hitech up for good.
A couple of crucial blocks from Chris Charles and Steve Thomas on Anthony McClain would completely seal the deal and Hitech Bangkok City would take game 1 of the Bangkok Brawl on their home turf, 80-74.
To be straightforward, Hitech Bangkok City won this game by having a higher level of individual talent. I still admire the fact that Mono are going through the ABL with local and 2 World imports, but they will have to cover up a lot of ground if they want to make the playoffs.
The Vampires overall talent is really good and they are able to consistently score, but they still seem to lack a “wildcard” that they can just place on the playing field to sway the game their way. Whether one of the locals step up and become that player or they get an ASEAN import later on is something we will have to anticipate.
As mentioned about Hitech, they looked really tense in this game. Hopefully, it is just because of the fact that they are going up against Mono Vampire (as a rival) that made them look so stiff. In a way, basketball players are “artists”. You can’t expect them to perform at their highest level when they have something breathing down on their necks all the time.
Hitech has one of the highest talent level in the entire ABL, but if they don’t figure out how to loosen up soon, they will suffer a disappointing loss which could spiral down to something worse.
Hitech continue on their undefeated ways with a 2-0 record, but they’ve been exposed of their weaknesses and it’s now a race between how fast they can fix things up before other teams figure how to exploit it.
Mono are still winless (0-2 at press time), but they’ve been playing really solid basketball. They will also be in a race of their own between how fast they can get a win before the team morale drops beyond repair with loss after loss.
What I liked and didn’t like
- Freddie Goldstein and the love/hate relationship
Goldstein has that sort of game where the person watching him is left in a rollercoaster of thought between “Wait, what the hell are you doing?” and “Oh my god, that was so awesome!“. He’ll make fearless drives to the basket when there are sometimes open options on the wing. He takes pull up fast break three point shots. He is the ultimate “Hate it or Love it” guy in the ABL.
Coaches and basketball purists might hate it, but myself as a pure fan of basketball, I am totally in love with the ups and downs.
- Mono Vampire Player Rotation
With teams trying to integrate new players (Hitech, KL Dragons) to teams suffering from injuries (Saigon Heat, Singapore Slingers) to teams who don’t really seem to know what they are doing (Pilipinas Aguilas), the Mono Vampires seem to at least have their player rotation settled down.
This is a result of them having used the same roster throughout the entire Thailand Basketball League season with almost the exact same roster. Coach Seng pretty much has it figured out how to use who and when.
This has proved from time to time to be a crucial point in the Mono Vampires getting their scoring runs.
- Freddie Goldstein adopting the “Wai” tradition
Thais have a tradition of pressing the palms together and slightly bowing as a form of showing respect to someone or something. People use it to greet each other or to show gratitude. The most notable applications in basketball has been used when accepting the ball from the ref for the free throw attempt (as perfected by Attaporn Lertmalaiporn and Danai Kongkum) or when accepting the ball from the inbounds.
It was a bit fun and heartwarming as a Thai to see Freddie Goldstein do the “Wai” after he made free throws late in the game.
A quick question that popped into my head though was who he was thanking? Was he thanking the basket for the points he just got? Was he thanking the basketball for those points? Was he thanking the referees for assisting on the free throws?
Whatever the case, it was a nice moment to see especially in the Bangkok Brawl Derby Match.
Mono Vampires will be playing the Singapore Slingers next on the 8th of November at OCBC Arena.
Hitech will be playing Pilipinas Aguilas on the 15th of November in Manila at a venue to be announced later on.