With their regular centre Jordan Bergren having left the country and prolific scorer Ben Laird somewhat off-colour, Smart Dragons found the going real tough against Extra Joss Fighters, who posted a 65-48 victory in the Angkor Beer Cambodian Basketball League at the Olympic Stadium Indoor Arena late on Monday evening.
While the defeat will push the Dragons down the pecking order for the play-offs from the fourth spot they held before this game, the Fighters will almost certainly move up from their sixth position. The final rankings to determine play-off pairings will be known only after two more round-robin matches are completed this evening.
The Fighters came out better in the first quarter through Arjhay De La Rosa and Patrick Robles, the pair ticking off a few scores from behind the three-point line. While the Dragons switched the defence format to keep the baskets down, they could hardly improve their own scoring rate.
In the second quarter, the Dragons employed the more secure man-on-man defence, preventing in the bargain De La Rosa and Robles taking shots from behind the arc. The ploy got the Dragons a few steals helping Hon Wei Chan score several times by driving to the basket, but the Fighters quickly transitioned with Stephen Siruma’s speed giving the team a 34-24 advantage at half time.
With three minutes to play in the third quarter, the Fighters led by 15 points. Chhim Chandara sheared off five of those with a fast break and a three-pointer for the Dragons, who were still not completely out of the woods.
The fourth quarter saw the Dragons mess up several turnovers and Laird, quite unlike his consistent self, missed a few in the face of the sustained aggression from the Fighters. The Dragons could hardly get back into the game.