P. LEAGUE+ & T1 LEAGUE/Kings defeat Braves in Game 1 of P.LEAGUE+ finals
Taipei, June 4 (CNA) The New Taipei Kings dispatched the two-time defending champions the Taipei Fubon Braves 86-72 Saturday to take a 1-0 lead in the P.LEAGUE+ (PLG) finals.
The Kings' Amigo Yang (楊敬敏), the PLG's reigning regular season MVP, led the scoring with 24 points, including 13 in the first 12 minutes, on a 10-for-17 shooting performance, doubling the 12 points from the Braves' Lin Chih-chieh (林志傑).
The Braves combined for 16 assists, only four fewer than the Kings, but the problem surfaced when compared with the team's 17 turnovers, not to mention going 5 for 28 from beyond the arc.
After leading the Kings to the franchise's first-ever finals victory, Yang was quick to credit shooting guard Kenny Manigault for slowing down Michael Singletary of the Braves.
Singletary, the two-time PLG finals MVP, struggled in Game 1 to end up seven points while going 2 for 12, including missing all six attempts from distance.
The Kings were the first in the six-team league to clinch a playoff slot in the 30-game 2021-22 season while there were still nine games left. However, the team lost eight of the last nine regular season games to finish fourth and got eliminated by the Hsinchu Jko Lioneers 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs.
Describing the Kings' long-awaited finals debut as "tough" and "very physical," head coach Ryan Marchand said the team came into this year's playoffs with "a different level of intensity and focus."
Marchand said he was particularly satisfied with his players' performance on the defensive end.
"To hold [the Braves] to 72 points is a fantastic job whether it's playoffs or regular season, that's not normal to hold the team to such a low number," Marchand said.
Though Marchand admitted it was unrealistic to expect the Braves to continue to have the same sluggish offense in the series, he said that "knowing we have the capabilities to do that in this setting" gave the team some confidence going forward.
The Kings' head coach was also full of praise for Yang and his influence on the franchise.
"It's not just in the game but in practice and preparations, on both sides of the ball. He's been prepared physically and mentally to play these minutes and he stepped up in our biggest moment, so he's fantastic."
The Braves head coach Roger Hsu (許晉哲) also recognized the Kings' toughness, saying that New Taipei's physical game flustered the Braves' offensive tempo, thereby letting the Taipei side score less than 20 points in three of the four quarters.
Saturday's triumph definitely gave the Kings a slight edge over the Braves, but history suggests that the real challenge for the New Taipei ballclub may have only started.
Whereas the Kings took a 5-3 record against the Braves in the 2022-23 regular season, the team was 1-3 in the second half, when the Braves' Ukrainian center Ihor Zaytsev returned from injury.
Moreover, the Braves lost their first game in the finals in the last two years but recorded 7-0 afterward in the two series combined.
The Kings will host the Braves again at Xinzhuang Gymnasium at 7 p.m. Monday.
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