By Marcus ChhanFollow @@MarcusChhan
The Slammers had begun the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) 2013 season with losses to the Jobstreet.com Singapore Slingers and the Saigon Heat, but it was Joe Bryant's side which got off to a hot start at the Nimibutr Stadium this evening.
The home side jumped out to a 6-0 lead with new big man Christien Charles - in for the injured Justin Howard - immediately making an impression with four points and a block right off the bat.
Charles would have a well-rounded debut with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks to keep the Slammers interested over the four periods. It wasn't enough, though, for the Slammers to record their first win of the campaign as the red hot Dragons remarkably outscored their opponents by 20 points in the second quarter on their way to recording the 91-83 win.
The Dragons had too much firepower for the Thais in the end with Cedric Bozeman (22 points), Patrick Cabahug (20 points) and Gavin Edwards (13 points) all contributing notably on the score sheet.
With Charles in the starting line-up for Howard, the Slammers certainly looked more of a threat in transition than in their previous games - and it made for some wonderful viewing as Slammers point-guard Froilan Baguion dialed up the big man for an alley-oop basket to push their lead to 16-8 with 4:23 remaining in the first quarter.
Baguion, who was coming off an ABL record 17 assists in his last game, then showed he could create for himself by stealing the ball for an easy lay-up with less than three minutes left to cue up roars of approval from the Thai supporters.
This seemed to finally wake the Dragons up from their slumber.
Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia had called for his men to be more aggressive offensively and they responded with consecutive buckets at the rim through Moala Del Valle Tautuaa and Bozeman.
Baguion, who dished out 12 dimes on Friday, hit a three with three seconds left in the period to keep his side in front marginally 24-21 at the end of the first.
The Dragons then took over in the second quarter.
Edwards got things started with a two pointer while Bozeman added a pair from the charity stripe before the sharp-shooting Cabahug struck a three pointer to suddenly make it 24-28 less than two minutes into the period.
The Dragons were in full flight by this time and were scoring at will. Mark Anthony Jeffries' behind the back pass to Edwards for the slam made it a 13 point game with 4:31 left in the quarter.
It became a 16 point lead when Baguion's ill-advised attempt to intercept a pass left Guga Batumalai with all the time in the world to bury his shot from the outside.
The Slammers were outscored 33-13 in the second quarter which indicates they failed to adjust to Dragons' coach Vanguardia's decision to switch to ‘small-ball'. A more mobile Dragons line-up totally overran the Slammers leading to a majority of their 16 points from turnovers that half.
They also shot the ball well at 59% from the field and 4/10 from beyond the arc in the first half.
After the break, the visitors kept the pressure on with Edwards swishing a mid-range jump-shot while John Ng dumped a corner three-pointer to make it 37-59.
The Slammers needed to dig deep to avoid an embarrassment and they got plenty of hustle from their debutant Charles. He brought them right back into the contest with a strong third quarter capitalised by some admirable effort on the offensive boards.
The extra-push from Charles seemed to rub off on his team-mates as guard Kannawat Lertlaokulasst surprised the Dragons with a solid cameo off the bench. He set up Wacharapong Tongsri for a three - albeit off some poor Malaysian ball handling - with 1:22 left to make it 59-66.
Lertlaokulasst had four assists in the match.
The fourth quarter proved to be a similar affair to the third with the Malaysians again pushing the lead out to double digits before the Thais attempted to mount another comeback.
And when Tongsri somehow managed to hit a fade-away three pointer with just under a minute to play the two teams were only separated by four points (82-86). In the next possession, Bozeman was unlucky to be tagged by the referee for a backcourt violation - replays suggested that Slammers center Earl had touched the ball - but the Slammers failed to make the most out of coach Bryant's set-play following a time-out.
The Dragons closed the game out from the free-throw line and eventually won 91-83 to go top of the ABL standings.
Quarter scoring: Q1(24-21) Q2(13-33) Q3(23-14) Q4(23-23)
Full-Time: Slammers 83-91 Dragons
Slammers: Charles - 20pts, 13reb, 4blk; Tongsri - 14pts; Baguion - 12ast.
Dragons: Bozeman - 22pts; Cabahug - 20pts; Edwards - 13pts, 8reb, 6blk.