Which teams can go to the Playoffs & what they have to do

ONE MORE. After three exciting circuits through the 2023 ABL Invitational, we’re down to the
last one to decide the teams headed to the Playoffs. Of the 8 teams, only 4 shall make it
through to the next stage.

Each of the teams has played through an intense set of 11 games so far and we’re now down to
the final stretch of the last three games. Here, we break down the Playoff picture and figure out
what each of the teams has left to do to stay in contention.
Last Hurrah

It’s been an eventful first competition for Louvre Surabaya and Bangkok Tigers in the 2023 ABL
Invitational, but they already know that their campaign is about to end. Both teams have 1-10
records, with a win against each other, and are already officially out of the Playoff race.

Still, that doesn’t mean they no longer have an impact in the final stretch of the competition.
While both teams cannot advance to the Playoffs, they still have a bearing to the fate of the
teams in the running – should those teams take their matchups against the Tigers and Louvre

The Tigers can wreak havoc right from opening day (FEB 12) when they face the 4 th placed
Slingers, while Louvre can make Valientes (FEB 13) and Black Bears (FEB 15) sweat if they don’t
put in their best efforts.

Bangkok Tigers
FEB 12 vs. Singapore Slingers
FEB 14 vs NS Matrix Malaysia
FEB 17 vs Hong Kong Eastern

Louvre Surabaya
FEB 13 vs Zamboanga Valientes
FEB 15 vs Macau Black Bears
FEB 17 vs Saigon Heat


Pleasantly Lonely at the top

The only team to have definitely clinched a Playoff spot so far is NS Matrix Malaysia. The
hottest team in the ABL Invitational still has their 9-game win streak alive, holding on to the
solo lead in the standings with a 9-2 record.

If they can get through what might be a tough matchup against the determined Black Bears
(FEB 13), they should have a favorable path (through the Tigers on FEB 14) to have a shot at
winning 12 straight games and clinching the #1 seed. Of course, that would mean defeating
Hong Kong Eastern in the last game… which will definitely not come easy.

As with any team that goes on a long win streak, NS Matrix have found themselves in a good
rhythm. Amir Williams (Player of the Batam Circuit) and Tevin Glass (Player of the KL Circuit)
have taken turns taking over, while Isaiah Williams (17.7 points per game) has only made them
better. Wong Yi Hou (7.6 points per game) provides another punch in the starting lineup and
Ting Chun Hong (13.2 points per game) has fit in perfectly in his role as the scorer of the second
string. They’ve certainly established themselves as the team to beat at this one.

NS Matrix Malaysia
FEB 13 vs. Macau Black Bears
FEB 14 vs Bangkok Tigers
FEB 16 vs Hong Kong Eastern


One more

Though the Saigon Heat and Hong Kong Eastern have yet to clinch Playoff berth, they are only
one more win away to seal this.

The way that their schedules are structured, as their first two games are against Playoff
contending teams, they might have to wait until the very end before being able to confirm their

The Heat have the advantage of playing at home, where they know they’ll have additional
energy from the fans for the first time in a long time. Coach Matt Van Pelt’s core four have
been arguably one of the best four-player combinations in the competition in Evan Gilyard
(Player of the Singapore Circuit), Jeremy Combs, Jarius Holder, and Hasan Thomas. The question
mark for the Heat heading forward is who among the local players will step up. Nguyen Huynh
Phu Vinh has had his moments. Vo Ban Kim, Tran Dang Khoa, and Tim Waale have had their
moments as well. Who among them can firmly step up as the intensity picks up?

Hong Kong Eastern’s situation is similar as they have a solid core four between Odarien Bassett,
Chris McLaughlin, Tonny Trocha Morelos, and Dominic Gilbert. However, there seems to be a
clearer priority in coach Pavlicevic’s rotation with Chan Siu Wing, Oliver Xu, Adam Xu, and
Leung Ka Hin. Hong Kong have been one of the steadier teams so far in the ABL Invitational,
which makes them a big threat in this final stretch of the competition.

Saigon heat
FEB 12 vs. Macau Black Bears
FEB 15 vs Singapore Slingers
FEB 17 vs Louvre Surabaya

Hong Kong Eastern
FEB 14 vs. Zamboanga Valientes
FEB 16 vs NS Matrix Malaysia
FEB 17 vs Bangkok Tigers


Looking from the inside out

The Slingers have quite a firm grip on the 4 th spot in the standings with a 7-4 record, two games
ahead of both the Macau Black Bears and Zamboanga Valientes.

Their fate is also firmly in their hands as they will need just two wins in these last three games
to cruise into the Playoffs. They can also clinch a Playoff spot should they win their first game
and Zamboanga loses their first game.

The matchup in the first game against the Tigers (FEB 12) should be favorable, but the pressure
will be piled on in those last two games. The Heat (FEB 15) certainly wouldn’t want to lose at
home and if the Slingers fail to win in that game, it could turn into a do-or-die game against
Zamboanga Valientes (FEB 16) if the Filipino club wins their first two games of the circuit.
There’s a lot of positivity in the Slingers camp. Their star rookie, Jackson Mah, is brimming with
confidence. Their all-around duo of Kentrell Barkely (25.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists per
game) and Xavier Alexander (14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.2 assists per game) can take over
games at any given moment. If Larry Liew and Tay Ding Loon continue to connect from
downtown, however, they might not have to sweat it out until the final game of the circuit.

Singapore Slingers
FEB 12 vs. Bangkok Tigers
FEB 15 vs Saigon Heat
FEB 16 vs Zamboanga Valientes


On the bubble

With an identical record of 5-6, both the Macau Black Bears and Zamboanga Valientes are on
the wrong side of the Playoff bubble. As they are two games behind the Slingers (as mentioned
above), EVERY game counts.

The Black Bears are in a straightforward but tough spot. They don’t have the head-to-head
tiebreaker against the Slingers, thus, even if they win all of their games in Ho Chi Minh City,
they also need the Slingers to lose all of their game to overtake them. The good news is that
they do have the head-to-head advantage over Zamboanga Valientes (virtue of a 12-point win
over a 10-point loss), if that two-way tie should take place. They aren’t favorable in the case of
a three-way tie between these teams either… so again, a very tough spot.

What makes it more difficult are the first two games as they face the home team and the first-
placed team in back-to-back games. This will be quite the test for Isaiah Wade, Dequan Abron,
and Jenning Leung. They might have to take it up a notch higher if they want to extend their
stay in this competition.

Zamboanga Valientes have a slightly better path towards a Playoff berth, though still not easy
nonetheless. They start off with a favorable game against Louvre, followed by a clash against

Hong Kong Eastern. If they can start off with wins and if the Slingers lose one of their games,
they could have an edge over the Slingers going into their final game.

Valientes will first have to shake off a 38-point loss to Eastern in KL as they were without the
services of star Antonio Hester, who was averaging 24.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists
per game. The good news is they now have a dynamic one-two punch in Mario Chalmers and
come backing Renaldo Balkman, two former NBA players to boot.

Macau Black Bears
FEB 12 vs. Saigon Heat
FEB 13 vs NS Matrix Malaysia
FEB 15 vs Louvre Surabaya

Zamboanga Valientes
FEB 13 vs. Louvre Surabaya
FEB 14 vs Hong Kong Eastern
FEB 16 vs Singapore Slingers