The third week of action in the 2017 VBA season saw the departure of guard Ryan Arnold from the Hanoi Buffaloes along with movement within the middling ranks of the power rankings. The themes revolving around the top and bottom of the heap remain the same however.
If week two gave us a taste of which players were set to dominate for the rest of the season, then week three gave us a glimpse of the consistency that can be expected, especially coming from local players. Fans were also able to witness the first set of rivalry matches between inner-city teams during the week, resulting in some exciting and much anticipated basketball.
6. Danang Dragons (0-5)
If the Dragons weren’t already worried about losing their season, their finish of week three should have all the sirens ringing right about now. To put things into perspective, the team started the 2016 season slow right out of the gates, losing four straight. This season, they’ve already eclipsed that margin, starting out with five straight losses.
Rudolphe Joly needs help and he needs it fast if the Danang Dragons are hoping to salvage what is left of their season. The big man continues to produce, but the weight that the rest of the squad have put on him outside of Horace Nguyen is looking to be too heavy.
In their lone week three home matchup against the Catfish, a 74-93 loss, Rudolphe and Horace combined for 59 of the team’s total 74 points while the rest of the team were only able to muster together 15. That’s just not going to cut it when the rest of the league have third and fourth scoring options available.
To make matters worse, during a third quarter timeout, Dragons head coach Donte Hill could be heard and seen yelling at his team exclaiming that they were “not high-fiving,” that players were “pointing the finger,” and as a whole, were “self-destructing.” The continued absence of Stefan Nguyen really hurts here as the guard/forward is a fiery and vocal presence for the Dragons.
As a summation to the team’s most immediate needs in hopes of turning things around, we’ll go back to that same timeout and further quote Coach Hill.
“I don’t need Dennis Rodman! I need Kobe! I need Jordan! I need Lebron!”
5. Hanoi Buffaloes (2-3)
The Hanoi Buffaloes drop one spot down into fifth place in the power rankings after losing both of their week three matchups. Starting off the week in a rivalry matchup against the Thang Long Warriors, a game which they lost 71-66, the Buffaloes then traveled to Saigon, losing to the Heat by seven points, 84-77.
In both games, the Buffaloes were able to stay within striking distance going into the deciding quarter, only losing by single digit margins. Vincent Nguyen has remained consistent throughout the 2017 campaign and week three was no different as he was able to put up 15 points against the Warriors and a 20 point, nine assist showing against the Heat.
Despite import Jordan Collins adding in 18 points in both of the week three matchups, his rebounding numbers have been lackluster when compared against the rest of the league’s imports. Against the Warriors, the big man brought down eight rebounds and against the Heat, he was only able to haul in six.
Also in those two games, Collins has paced the entire squad with 14 total three-point shot attempts while only converting on three. His propensity to stand at the arc not only hurts his rebounding totals, but also the Buffaloes’ second-chance opportunities.
Perhaps the biggest reasons for concern are the week three disappearing acts of the “flash brothers.” A big part of last season’s success rode on the scoring threat that both Hoang Ca and twin brother Dat Doc posed. In week three, of the 143 total points the Buffaloes scored, the duo only added 12 combined points between the two of them.
4. Ho Chi Minh City Wings (2-3)
Swapping positions with the Buffaloes from last week’s rankings are the Ho Chi Minh City Wings who jump up one spot. The City Wings were without two key members of their team, Le Cong Tuan Anh and Chong Paul who are still partaking in a basketball exhibition tour in Australia, but the team was still able to put up two strong showings against the top two teams in the league.
In week three, the City Wings were faced with the most difficult schedule, having to first go up against the Saigon Heat in their first rivalry matchup of the season. Despite ultimately falling to their cross-town rivals by a score of 67-59, the City Wings showed they could match up with the first place team well.
Bilal Richardson put up a stat line of 24 points, 17 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks which essentially negated the damage that the Heat’s Darius Lewis was able to put in. Henry Nguyen also poured in 19 points of his own while hitting four of six three-pointers. The two combined for 43 of the team’s total 59 points, showing promise and with some additional help from missing members of the team, could turn the outcome in their favor the next time around.
To close out their week, the still undermanned City Wings traveled north to face off against the Thang Long Warriors who were riding a three-game win streak which included a victory against the City Wings in week two. In a game which many surely predicted the Warriors to come out on top, especially at home, the visitors did the unfathomable and came out victorious in convincing fashion by a score of 67-56.
Once again, the duo of Richardson and Nguyen came out to play, with the former adding yet another beastly double-double at 20 points and 22 rebounds to go along with five blocks, and the latter continuing his hot shooting, finishing with 22 points while going three for six from long-range.
The team has made tremendous progression since the start of the season and should continue to make noise as they make their way back to full strength.
3. Thang Long Warriors (4-2)
The Thang Long Warriors came out of week two as one of the hottest teams in the league and continued their surge into week three with a victory over their inner-city rivals, the Hanoi Buffaloes. Jaywuan Hill led the way with 23 points and 12 rebounds, but To Trung wasn’t far behind in the scoring category, adding 19 points of his own in just 17 minutes of duty en route to a 71-66 win.
Riding a the highs of a three-game winning streak, the Warriors were due for a letdown in their second game of the week when they hosted the visiting Ho Chi Minh City Wings. Having defeated the visitors just a shade over a week earlier, the Warriors came out sluggish against a City Wings team that was out to avenge their previous loss.
Credit the visitors for showing up to play, but the hosts looked lackadaisical from the very start and were never able to recover, suffering a 56-67 defeat against an undermanned City Wings team which ended their winning streak. In the game, the usual contributors struggled, with the highest scoring output at just 11 points courtesy of starting forward, Justin Young.
Although the Warriors finished week three’s games at .500, the team still sits in second place in the official standings and should still be considered a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses.
2. Can Tho Catfish (3-2)
Sure the Can Tho Catfish only played one game in week three, with that one game being against the bottom dwelling and winless Dragons, but Vietnam’s most southern team did it in dominating fashion. Coming off of a defeat against the Heat, a game against the Dragons was the perfect way to bounce back and get back into the wins column.
Last season, in a similar situation, the Catfish gave the eventual champions their first taste of victory and this season, the brother tandem of Tam and Sang Dinh made sure there would be no repeat. Coming out firing from the opening whistle, the Catfish had scoring quarters of 25 in the first and 27 in the third and fourth.
The chemistry between Tam and Sang were just too much to handle as the elder Dinh continued his MVP-level 2017 campaign with 33 points, four rebounds, three assists, and five steals. The younger brother Sang relished in a career-high of 27 points, completing his all-around effort with five rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
Combined with DeAngelo Hamilton’s near triple-double of 17 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and two blocks, the combo of brothers along with their import have turned into a three-headed monster in Can Tho.
The 19-point beatdown wasn’t as much as the Thang Long Warriors opening night victory over the Dragons, but the display of cohesion and comfort among Can Tho’s core is something that other teams around the league will need to address especially since the production is coming from three drastically different on-court positions.
1. Saigon Heat (4-0)
The Saigon Heat remain the lone undefeated team after three weeks of play and are once again atop our weekly power rankings for the second straight week. Coming off a stellar home performance against the Can Tho Catfish, the Heat started off the week with a victory against their inner-city rivals, the Ho Chi Minh City Wings.
Featuring three players (Le Ngoc Tu, Huynh Hai, and Lan Hong Gia) who were apart of last season’s City Wings squad, the Heat didn’t miss a beat as two of those three aforementioned players scored in double figures against their former team, while the third just narrowly missed by a single point. Four players altogether managed to amass double digit scoring totals with David Arnold adding 14, Le Ngoc Tu chipping in with 12, and Darius Lewis along with reserve guard Huynh Hai each putting in 15.
In their second matchup of the week, veteran guard David Arnold took a backseat in the scoring department while dishing out eight assists. Once again, four members of the Heat scored in double figures, led by Le Ngoc Tu’s 30 in a game where the Heat never really relinquished control to the visiting Buffaloes.
Lan Hong Gia has emerged as a legitimate three-point threat for the league’s top team and with opponents having multiple members of the Heat to worry about, should continue to get open looks from beyond the arc.
The consistency in which Heat locals have been scoring, coupled with the potential of big time games from import Darius Lewis and heritage player David Arnold have been the recipe for success so far this season for the Heat and it doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon.