Despite a challenging season, Heat fans have continuously shown their loyalty for their team. They were rewarded as the Heat finally won at Tan Binh Stadium, Vietnam.
"The fans are great tonight [Sunday]. You can take a look around and the stadium is very full even though we are having a tough season. We dedicated tonight's win for them and we would like to thank them for all their support all season long," said Larry Tieu after the game.
David Palmer scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Justin Howard finished with 27 points and 19 rebounds. Chris Sumalinog added 10 points for the Heat who had to play without one of their starters Jai Reyes due to a foot injury.
Saigon opened up the game by making their first four shots to take a 10-3 lead early in the first quarter. After Ooi Ban Sin made a layup, the Heat went on an 11-3 run to end the first period. Palmer knocked down a three-point shot which gave the Heat a 33-23 lead after 10 minutes.
Malaysia stayed within striking distance in the second quarter. Sumalinog briefly gave the Heat a 46-35 lead after scoring on a pull up jumper and from behind the arc on back to back possesions. However, Gavin Edwards responded with a long two-point shot from the top of the key which was followed by a layup from Moala Tautuaa and a one-legged bank shot from Julius Armon as the Dragons cut their deficit to 48-41 at halftime.
Malaysia held a 57-56 lead for a moment after Edwards threw down a dunk off a no look pass from Ooi. Unfortunately for Malaysia, that lead did not last long as the Heat finished the third period with a 20-2 run. During that stretch, Palmer and Howard dominated the paint as they combined for 15 points. The run was capped off by a three-point shot from Tieu, giving the Heat a 76-59 lead at the end of the third period.
Down 21 points with 5:19 left, Malaysia's players kept fighting to trim Saigon's lead. Ooi knocked down three straight three-pointers, cutting the Dragons' deficit to 83-70 with 1:47 left. It was a little too late as Palmer put the Dragons away with a two-handed jam and a smile with 27 seconds left.
Armon led the way for the Dragons with 22 points, Ooi added 17 points and Edwards chipped in 13 points. The Dragons will now focus on preparing for their semi-final matchups with the Indonesia Warriors for the ABL Playoffs.
The Dragons will play their first game against the Warriors on Friday night at Mahaka Square, Indonesia, for the 8PM tip-off which will be shown LIVE on FOX Sports.
Quarter scoring: Q1(33-23) Q2(15-18) Q3(22-16) Q4(19-21)
Full-Time: Heat 89-78 Dragons
Heat: Palmer - 30, Howard - 27, Sumalinog - 10, Gonzalez - 9, Tieu - 8, To - 5.
Dragons: Reyes -22, Palmer - 18, Howard - 15, Sumalinog - 7, Ly - 3, To - 3.