Hong Kong Eastern and NS Matrix Malaysia were the first two teams to draw the first blood in
their respective 2023 ABL Invitational Playoff series.
The Playoffs action started with Hong Kong Eastern beating NS Matrix Malaysia, 76-51, in what
was nearly a wire-to-wire win.
The Hong Kong club dominated on the defensive end, holding NS Matrix to only 27 percent
shooting from the field. The Malaysian club also made only 2 three-pointers in 24 attempts
from beyond the three-point line.
The defense allowed Hong Kong to roam more freely on offense where they enjoyed having
four players score in double-digits including O’Darien Bassett (17 points), Chris McLaughlin (16
points), Dominic Gilbert (15 points), and Tonny Trocha Morelos (14 points).
Amir Williams had a productive rebounding game in his return to action, grabbing 16 carroms,
but was far from his efficient offensive self, making only 2 of his 7 field goal attempts for a total
of 8 points.
Hong Kong Eastern now take the lead in a best-of-three series where the winner will head into
The Saigon Heat, home team and top seed of the 2023 ABL Invitational Playoffs, took the court
next, but were upset by the experienced Singapore Slingers, 94-82.
The game went back and forth until only the tail end of the game when the Slingers’ physicality
gave them the advantage. Once the Saigon Jeremy Combs was stuck in foul trouble, the Slingers
continued to attack and widen the gap up until the final buzzer.
Kentrell Barkley (20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, and 4 blocks) and CJ Gettys (24 points, 12
rebounds, and 2 blocks) recorded double-doubles in their first playoff games. However, Barkley
hobbled off the court near the end of the game when the Slingers had already captured a
comfortable lead, which might be a point of concern moving forward.
The Slingers also got a heroic performance from long-time veteran Larry Liew who made his
first start of the season and responded with a 17-point performance – his highest tally of the
The Saigon Heat shot near their average from the three-point line, going 12-35 from long range
(37 percent). The Slingers, however, were able to match the Heat in that regard to nullify the
advantage, shooting 11-31 from downtown.
The Heat’s top scorers, Evan Gilyard and Jarius Holder, both scored over 20 points in this game
as expected, but it was not enough in this close loss.
The Slingers now have the advantage moving forward in the Playoffs, needing only one more
win to make it to yet another ABL Finals – potentially their 4 th trip to the last stage in Finals