We should all have faith, especially when it comes to basketball because it’s a round ball. Anything can happen. But sometimes, the facts are just too evident to ignore.
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The KL Dragons have been on a tear since the New Year had started. With two wins over the Pilipinas Kings and the Saigon Heat for average of 104.5 points per game and an average point differential of 32.0 points per game. I know that it’s just the Kings and the Heat haven’t been impressive away from home, but those numbers are dominating nonetheless.
I don’t even know where to start.
Wright’s been his usual sharpshooting self, gunning for 7 of 17 (41.1%) which is unbelievably below his 42.5% average. Brickman has been distributing. Calvin Godfrey is coming off a 20-20 game and a 20-10 game.
Reggie Johnson, on the other hand, has been unstoppable. He’s missed only 6 of his last 29 attempts, shooting an ungodly 79.3% from the field. That doesn’t seem fair at all.
Of course, in those two games, Johnson was going up against the likes of Will Creekmore (smaller) and Nakia Miller (only big on the Kings roster). He’ll be going up against Anthony McClain/Mike Fey in this game against the Mono Vampires.
But if Reggie Johnson matches up with McClain/Fey and is unable to do much, then Calvin Godfrey who has the speed advantage on whoever is left from the McClain/Fey duo. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Mono Vampires try to figure out what to do with the agile Calvin Godfrey, who has been averaging 17.9 points and 11.3 rebounds.
The Mono Vampires have been changing since the first week of the year and they have yet to stop. Most recently, they have picked up Leo Avenido to pair up with former team-mate Froilan Baguion. This will be the Filipino duo’s third stint together in the ABL after playing with the San Miguel Beermen in Season 3 and last year with the Saigon Heat.
Avenido has also played for the Brunei Barracuda’s (Season 1) and Singapore Slingers (Season 2), before playing for the San Miguel Beermen (Season 3 & 4) and Saigon Heat (Season 5).
Avenido’s role last year was a three point shooter, where he launched 157 of (an ABL high by a WIDE margin) at a decent rate of 36.3%. He’s be expected to play a similar role here with the Mono Vampires as it is reported that sharpshooter Ratdech Kruatiwa might be out for quite some time with an injury. Kruatiwa was averaging 10.2 points on 29.1% three point shooting.
What’s interesting is the pair of Froilan Baguion-Leo Avenido going up against Jason Brickman-Matthew Wright. Baguion-Avenido are 35 and 37, respectively, while Brickman and Wright are both 24. And the duo play similar roles on their teams! Brickman and Baguion are the teams distributors, while Wright-Avenido are the teams shapshooters. Separated by 12 years apart, we might get to see a match up between savvy and strength.
PS. We might also be seeing the introduction of Thai local forward, Chitchai Ananti, who has been added to the Vampires roster and was practicing with the team. Ananti was the main player on the Mono-Thewphaingarm team in the Thailand Basketball League which kept Hitech Bangkok City from making it to the TBL Finals. A rangy forward who has an adequate jumpshot, he’ll provide much needed slashing once his number gets called.
PS2. Loh Shee Fai is back for the KL Dragons! The sharpshooter was a dangerous part of last year’s Finals squad and was one of the most impacting locals in the league. He played 21.9 minutes per game last year, score 7.9 points on 33.9% three point shooting. He was a strong candidate for ASEAN MVP, but tore his ACL during the offseason and has only returned to the lineup for 2 games. Plus, it will be his birthday on game day!
X-Factor: Pairach Sekteera
It’s tough to consider a guy who is recovering from a hand ligament injury to be the factor of this game, but that’s what I’m going to do. The KL Dragons have a bevy of long forwards (Wong Yi Hou. Loh Shee Fai, Kuek Tian Yuan, Wei Hong Choo) and the Mono Vampires will need someone to counter than. You can’t expect them to use newcomer, Chitchai Ananti, for long periods so that task will fall on Sekteera.
A part of me is wondering if it’s possible that Leo Avenido will be able to take the Dragons by surprise. Coach Ariel Vanguardia’s squad have had a history of letting ASEAN Imports explode at them. Avenido has scored 38 and 30 on them. Patrick Cabahug has scored 34 and 29 on them. Heck, local Wattana Suttisin had his career high 26 points on the Dragons.
Maybe Avenido can unleash his fury on the Dragons.
Even though there’s a possibility of that happening. I highly doubt it. The Dragons should win this game by 14 points.
Feature Picture from Mono Vampire Basketball Club
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