Maybe this is what they call a rookie hazing.
4 games into the season, all on the read, zero wins, and the Mono Vampires will be having to play a team which has played like they belong in the ABL Finals. Life just went from bad to worse for the Mono Vampires.
Saying that the KL Dragons have been on a tear might be a slight understatement. The team has been averaging 94.0 points (league best) with a majority of those points coming from 3 point shots where the Dragons make a 8 per game(also league best) and shoot 30.8% (can you guess if this is a league best or not?). They run the fastest game in the ABL with and 87.6 pace which starts from the Dragons forcing a league high 20.0 turnovers per game (!!!) off a 13.0% steal rate.
Basically, Ariel Vanguardia is still running the same team philosophy with a mix up of the players.
For the Vampires, their main threat will be Matthew Wright. The Fil-Canadian is second in the league in scoring (24.8 PPG) and he is the only 5 players in the ABL that is shooting more than 40% from long range with at least one made three-point shot per game. That’s even more ridiculous once you see that he take 8 three-point shots per game. Wright has been able to score with the likes of Desmond Oh and Moses Morgan consistently on him.
We’ll get to see how creative Coach Prasert will be with his defensive schemes and who he’ll put on Wright. Ideally, it would seem like Chanachon Klahan can hold his own against Wright, as he won’t be giving up much height and his physicality can get into Wright’s head, but Klahan does have a disadvantage in terms of speed so it’s a bit of a toss up here.
A matchup that seems to be fun is the Anthony McClain-Reggie Johnson battle in the paint. Both of these guys are really big bodies and where Johnson gives away in height, he makes up for in width. While it might seem entertaining to see these two go up against each other, McClain slightly holds the upper hand by averaging a lot less fouls and being a more sturdy defensive presence (3.3 blocks per game). If the Vampires can get Reggie Johnson into foul trouble early (where he has been averaging 4.5 per game), that leaves the Vampires with a lot of space to work Anthony McClain around.
The Vampires have been struggling as much as you would expect from a rookie team that bases it’s firepower on locals. They average the least points per game (72.3 PPG), the most amount of turnovers (18.5 per game, 18.8 TOV%), while forcing the least amount of turnovers as well (11.8 per game). However, it’s not all bad as they’ve at least made a name for themselves as the league’s best shot blocking team on 7.8 blocks per game and 16.8 BLK% (!!!!!!!). Opponent’s have also shot only 37.7% against them, so maybe they have the potential to tone down the KL Dragons offensive firepower.
X-Factor: “Palm” Darongphan Apiromwilaichai
One of the hardest names to say in the league is also one of the most key players of the Mono Vampire offense. Even though “JO” Ratdech Kruatiwa is their leading scorer (12.0 PPG), that more because of his role as a sharpshooter. “Palm”, however, is their swiss army knife who does a little bit of everything and ties up the Mono Vampire team together. He’s lost his efficiency from the Thailand Basketball League with the increased physicality of the ABL, but he is still an all-around force averaging 8.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. Only 2 more players (Jason Brickman and Xavier Alexander) have hit those numbers this season.
He will be a big part of the Mono Vampires offense and could push them to an upset…if he can stay on the court. He’s been averaging 4.5 fouls per game (tied with Reggie Johnson for most in the ABL) and has fouled out of 2 games already. He likes to swipe a lot on defense and let’s hope he tunes that down so he can play this game will the end.
I guess it’s harsh reality that the Mono Vampires have a really small chance of winning this game. Both teams are well rested, but the Dragons will be playing home and coming off a nice win against rivals Singapore. Unless Anthony McClain can erupt for 45 points a la Justin Howard in the Slingers win over the Dragons, I find it unlikely that the Mono Vampires pull the upset.
With a heavy heart as a Thai basketball fan, I say the Dragons take this game with a 14 point deficit.