With KL Dragons, Hitech Bangkok City, and Singapore Slingers holding a firm grip on the top 3 spots of the standings, this matchup between two teams who will be fighting it out for the last playoff spot should be an entertaining game.
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The Mono Vampires will start off a crucial home-and-home series against the Saigon Heat in Ho Chi Minh City. The Vampires hold a 2-7 record while the Saigon Heat have a 2-5 record, placing them 5th and 4th respectively.
If any team steal both two games, it will be very crucial to their playoff hopes. Snatching a top three playoff slot is still probable, but securing the final playoff spot by blocking off their major threat should be their top priority.
The Mono Vampires are coming off their first home game in a win over the MX3 Pilipinas Kings, which might not seem like a memorable win but it’s a great way too start off their home campaign. New players Froilan Bagion and Paul Butorac had a solid game against the Kings which is a good sign for the resurgence of the Thai team in their season’s second half stretch. Butorac picked up 7 blocks to silence any doubters about his defensive presence along with 10 points and 8 rebounds. Baguion played in only 14 minutes but he was able to get the ball to Anthony McClain in the post, which was crucial to the Vampires offense.
The Saigon Heat recently lost another close game at home to the Singapore Slingers. The Heat had taken a commanding 3 point lead with just under 3 minutes left in the game, but a couple of turnovers swung the game to the visiting Slingers.
The Heat have been playing well at home, with a huge win over the Dragons and two close losses to Hitech and the aforementioned Slingers loss. They also picked up a win against the Mono Vampires in their first matchup in Ho Chi Minh City, but it might be a bit concerning that they had allowed the Vampires to build up a huge lead before being able to come back later in the game.
The Heat have been a solid rebounding squad, tied for first in defensive rebounding rate (69.5%) and closely second in offensive rebounding rate (51.8%). That might come in handy, but the Vampires do have Anthony McClain aka “Biggie” so the rebounds might not come as easy against the 7’1″ center.
Turnovers have been a ongoing problem for the Mono Vampires. With the signing of Froilan Baguion, they were able to tone it down to only 14 turnovers from their 18.3 average of turnovers per game.
Both teams will be looking to maximize their strengths and exploit their opponents weaknesses to take advantage of this crucial game.
In an interesting note, the Saigon Heat didn’t make any changes to their roster after it seemed like they were trying out Mike Fey.
For the Mono Vampires, they were able to pry Kannut Samerjai and Darongphan Apiromwilaichai from the National Basketball Games for the Sukhothai provice but couldn’t keep Chaiwat Kedum from playing for the Nakhon Ratchasima province. They will not be with his services in this game but will be tapping “Big” Teerawat Chantachon instead.
In another interesting subplot, this will be Froilan Baguion’s return to the CIS Arena after he played for the Saigon Heat last year.
X-Factor: Jittaphon Towaroj
Towaroj came alive has had a rough stretch in the ABL shooting only 1/15 from three point range prior to the Kings game. He then came alive and made 3/7 from long range. If it becomes a surge of confidence for the sharpshooter, he could be a huge boost of firepower alongside Ratdech Krutiwa and Kannut Samerjai.
The Heat are really good at home and the Mono Vampires haven’t really been able to catch a break on the road. The Vampires almost got the Heat in their homecourt the last time around, but that was without Stefan Nguyen manning the point for the Heat. The game can go either way, but…
I think the Heat will take it by 4 points.
Feature Picture from Mono Vampire Basketball Club