Eastern await in Finals, Slingers-Heat goes the distance

Hong Kong Eastern sweep NS Matrix to take their seat in the Finals as they await the result of
the series between Heat and Slingers that is going the distance.

In the second game day of the 2023 ABL Invitational Playoffs, Hong Kong Eastern defied a
strong effort by NS Matrix Malaysia to extend their stay and rallied for a come-from-behind
win, 76-70.

The Malaysian club came out of the gates strong, with Amir Williams nearly posting a double-
double in the first half alone to build up a lead as large as 13 points in the second quarter.
Unfortunately, NS Matrix ran out of gas and ended up running on fumes as Hong Kong Eastern
rushed back into the game and control the fourth quarter.



Amir Williams finished with a monster game (26 points, 12 rebounds) to redeem his Game 1
struggles as did Tevin Glass (16 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks) for NS Matrix.
Eastern simply did a better job of limiting the other options of their opponents. Ting Chun Hong
and Wong Yi Hou combined for only 7 points, while Wong Chong Han finished the game with 0
point on 0 field goals made.

Coach Pavlicevic’s squad went to business as usual in this game with their core four scoring in
double-digits, led by Dominic Gilbert who had 26 points on 11-19 shooting. Chris McLaughlin
also matched Amir Williams’ performance with 21 points and 20 rebounds of his own, while
also getting two blocks in.



The win completes the sweep for Eastern as they make a return to the Finals of an ABL
competition for the first time since 2016-17, their debut season. That year, Hong Kong Eastern
went all the way to celebrate a championship won in Singapore as they beat the Singapore
Slingers, 3-1.

The Slingers are hoping to make it back to the Finals to get their revenge against Eastern, but
that will have to wait as they were unable to beat the Saigon Heat in an intense overtime affair,
the first in this invitational. The home team won, much to the delight of the fans in Ho Chi Minh
City, 81-79.

The series between these two teams had been previously hyped to be as close as it can be.
Even though Game 1 turned out to be a double-digit deficit, fans that were watching knew how
close the game was until only the tail end of the game.

That intensity continued here in Game 2 as the two teams continued to trade jabs back and
forth in a clash that could not be decided in 40 minutes of regulation.

With the game as close as it was, the Heat’s 4-point lead with five minutes to go in the game
must have felt like a big gap for the Slingers to overcome, yet it was CJ Gettys that put his team
on his shoulders by scoring five straight points to take the lead with under 3 minutes left.



Evan Gilyard took his turn at playing the hero as he reclaimed the lead for the Heat only two
possessions after, only to set up the stage for a clutch three-pointer by Kentrell Barkley to give
the Slingers a two-point lead with only 1 minute to go. Yet, it was Gilyard once again who
stepped up for the Heat, knocking down a cold-blooded bucket to tie things up and force the
game into an overtime session.

The Slingers got out to a commanding five-point lead to start the extra period, but that only put
the opportunity for Evan Gilyard to solidify himself as the Heat’s hero on a platter as the scoring
guard scored the final 6 points for his team on their way to a win.

Gilyard had 10 points heading into the final quarter and scored 10 more to end up with 20 in
which the Heat needed nearly every single one of those points to keep their season alive.
Gilyard also provided his team with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. While his contribution certainly
shone in this game, it was a combined effort from the other Heat players, Jeremy Combs (14
points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists), Hasan Thomas (16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists), and Jarius
Holder (20 points), that spelled the difference. Combs, Gilyard, and Holder played all possible
45 minutes in this contest.



It was a tough loss for the Slingers who got a great game from CJ Gettys, arguably his best so far
with 31 points and 20 rebounds. He and Kentrell Barkley (16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and
3 steals) were never subbed out in this game.

The series shall now go to a decisive Game 3 where the winner advances to the Finals and the
losing team packs his bags and go home.

The Slingers are looking to make a fourth trip to the Finals in ABL competition and, moreover,
aiming for their first-ever title. Likewise, the Heat will be playing to make history as it vies for its
first Finals appearance in franchise history in an ABL competition.

The game will be played at 7:30 PM (GMT +7) on Thursday, March 9.
Hong Kong Eastern shall await the result of Game 3 to know their opponents in the Finals,
which shall start on Saturday, March 11. Game 2 shall then be played on Sunday, March 12, and
if the series goes all the way to Game 3, the championship shall be decided on Tuesday, March