By Harry Hodge
Things were starting to look good for the Saigon Heat after some early season struggles. Then the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions came to visit.
Like a well-oiled machine, the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) newcomers cruised to an easy 97-72 victory in Ho Chi Minh City, ending the Heat’s recent winning streak at two games.
Notable by his absence was former league MVP Christien Charles, a key offseason signing by the Heat who’s a crucial cog when he’s in the lineup. Sadly, that’s only been for three games so far this season as he’s battled injuries, and is now on the team’s three-game injured list as he seeks treatment in the United States.
Former Kansas State star Jordan Henriquez is the fourth player in 11 games to occupy the center position for the Heat, but his first game with the team was a mixed bag. Still he managed to record a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds but also led all players with seven turnovers. Lenny Daniel led all players with 32 points, despite being double- and triple-teamed once the Lions identified him as the Heat’s main threat.
Marcus Elliott, dubbed by Heat coach Tony Garbelotto as the “top closer in the league” showed up big-time, taking the team on his shoulders from the end of the first half onward. Elliott raced coast-to-coast and scored while being fouled with 0.2 seconds left at the end of the first half, a game that was still competitive at the time. But despite being down only 41-38 at halftime, the Heat couldn’t handle all of Hong Kong’s arsenal in the second half.
Elliott finished with 22 points, while three other teammates tallied double-digit point totals, including ABL journeyman Tyler Lamb with 21 points.
“Hong Kong had a game plan and stuck to it,” said Heat forward Moses Morgan after the game. “Tyler (Lamb) played really well, and we didn’t stick together.
“I put it on myself as the voice of the team, (but) hats off to them.”
The loss effectively puts the Kaohsiung Truth in the fourth playoff position for the moment, but there are plenty of games left in the season’s second half. The Heat’s next home game is Sunday, Feb, 26 at CIS Stadium.