The Saigon Heat and Hitech Bangkok City are two teams that I have quite a history with so this game preview might get a bit personal.
I don’t think I would have been much involved with the ABL had it not been for the Saigon Heat. During the beginning of ABL Season 5, I was working in Vietnam and I saw this nifty little sticker on an elevator stand about the Saigon Heat, inviting people to join their games. It was not long after that that I walked by an Adidas shop and saw a Saigon Heat jersey for sale.
I jumped onto the internet and got hooked with the ABL since then.
Of course, as a Thai, it was intriguing for me to support the only Thai team in the ABL at the time, so I devoted a large part of my time (which should have been used to focus on my day job) to researching about the Hitech Bangkok City team. From there, I started writing about the team and about the ABL. And article after article, it became a part of my life.
Now, a full year and change has passed, and here we are as the two teams will cross paths once again.
Hitech Bangkok City is still pretty much the same team as last year, except for the ASEAN Imports.
Saigon Heat are almost a completely new team, with the exception of David Arnold and Tien Thinh Tran.
Hitech have been going through nicely in the early stages of the ABL with a better-in-retrospect win over the Singapore Slingers, a crucial victory over rivals Mono Vampires, and a stomping of confused MX3 Pilipinas Kings. They will be having an approximate 2-3 days of rest coming out of a game where they were able to play all 10 players at least 10 minutes while keeping Thomas and Charles in the low 30s. Conditioning shouldn’t be an issue and the understanding among players is slowly coming along.
However, Tyler Lamb and Freddie Goldstein are still shooting a lot of shots, averaging 32.0 FGAs between them compared to the 28.3 FGAs averaged by Patrick Cabahug and Jerick Canada. Their role is to score obviously, so you can’t fault them for that, but there are some opportunities that you’d like to see them pass the ball to a local player and give him some confidence on offense. Again, this is early in the season and the teams are still evolving as we go, so we’ll probably see this develop later on.
Thomas and Charles will once again be the spearheads of this game, as their size advantage over Lenny Daniel and Will Creekmore should be a trump card for Hitech. Mono Vampires had Anthony McClain, but that didn’t work out because of foul trouble late in the game. Thomas and Charles should be able to collect the rebounds (Hitech has the league’s leading Rebound percentage at 55.7%) to keep Saigon Heat’s possessions short, especially keeping Lenny Daniel away from those putback dunks.
For the Heat to steal the away victory, they will have to make use of their insane athleticism. The Heat are second in the league in free throws attempted at 27.0 and a large part of that is because few players can keep up with the athleticism of Lenny Daniel (10.3 FTA/g, 1st in ABL) and David Arnold (6.7 FTA/g, 6th in ABL). If these two (and Moses Morgan, another athlete) can draw the fouls out of the two Hitech big men, the Heat should have a really good chance at cracking Hitech’s unblemished record.
Of course, the Heat will need for their locals to step up their game to the imports support. The obvious prospects are Han Minh Trieu and Tuan Trung Ngo. Both had decent outings against Mono Vampires (it was Minh Trieu’s big three late in the game that lifted the Heat up) and the Heat will need their efforts again in this game especially with Stefan Nguyen still not 100% and Nguyen Thanh Nhan still suffering from back injury.
X-Factor: Kannawat Lertlaokul
He missed out on the Manila outing with the rest of the team to attend a wedding, so he will be 100% ready to play this game. Look for him to be a difference when subbed in for Freddie Goldstein.
Hitech shouldn’t have much of a problem with the Saigon Heat, especially on their own homecourt. Moses Morgan might be fueled up to take another shot at beating Hitech (after failing to do so in the Thailand Basketball League) and to see all three Thai-Americans on the court at the same time will be fun, but Hitech has the upper hand in terms of experience, venue, and overall talent.
I think Hitech should beat Saigon by 8 points.
TV Channel: True Sports 7
Internet Live Stream: ASEAN Basketball League Youtube Channel
Venue: Hitech Gymnasium, Bangkok, Thailand
Time: 7:00 PM (GMT +7)