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Heat Provide Little Resistance Against Bangkok As Both Teams Eye Playoffs

“The playoffs are the playoffs. You just play who is put in front of you.” – Steve Nash

After Friday’s season finale against HiTech Bangkok City, the Saigon Heat may be glad they don’t have to face them again in their first-ever playoff tilt.

Following an emotional 75-73 overtime victory over the Indonesia Warriors to clinch the first ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) playoff berth in team history, the spent Heat had little left in the tank for an essentially meaningless final game a scant two days later. As such, Bangkok came out guns blazing and cruised to an easy 100-75 victory.

To be fair, head coach Tony Garbelotto mixed it up to give playing time to the entire squad in the home finale before a packed house at the Canadian International School (CIS), including an outstanding effort from Ukrainian Dimitriy Guchko. The practice player’s first start allowed American Dustin Scott to take a breather before the postseason begins, and Guchko was a revelation with 21 points and 15 rebounds, including a perfect five-for-five from beyond the three-point arc. American Justin WIlliams put in a workmanlike 23 points and 16 rebounds, and Filipino sharpshooter Leo Avenido scored 11 points. Christien Charles, who always seems to save big games for his visits to Vietnam, provided a 27-point, 16-rebound performance.

Vietnamese-American star David Arnold played just over 24 minutes Friday, paving the way for domestic players to get more court time.

“This game had no value for us in terms of seeding,” Arnold said, with the Heat knowing they’d be facing the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the first round. “(Wednesday against Indonesia) was a huge game. We took our first step.”

Vietnam’s Phan Tran Man has really come on as the season has progressed, logging 24 minutes and notching five points and five rebounds and countryman Ryan Le playing just under half the game. Filipino guard Froilan Baguion also got a chance to rest, playing just over 10 minutes.

One scary moment during the game was the collapse of Heat assistant coach Gary Zuko, with the crowd holding its collective breath when the Canadian hit the floor on the sidelines. He was taken to the locker room but seemed to be moving under his own power, a relief for all in attendance after the tragic passing of Heat coach Jason Rabedeaux last month.

“We hope he just fainted, we’ve been through a lot,” Garbelotto said moments after the game ended while Zuko was being attended to. He praised the effort put forth by the domestic players, which clearly got a thumbs-up from the home crowd.

“These guys just don’t have much game experience,” he said, “Man did a decent job tonight."

“These guys work very hard, and our senior guys are exhausted. (Wednesday) was the biggest game in the history of our club.”

Hopefully the Heat are set to make more history as the postseason begins.

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