Week four of the 2017 VBA season gave fans a different but fun way to watch Vietnam basketball, featuring a mid-game power outage at CIS Sports Arena in Saigon. In a display of togetherness, phone screens lit up a pitch black court showing that a loss of power wasn’t going to be enough to deter attendees from enjoying themselves.
The lower half of this week’s edition of the power rankings sees no movement among teams. The upper portion involves a shift between all three teams occupying the top spots including a new team jumping into first. No longer is there an undefeated team in the league so the hopes and dreams of a perfect season is merely an afterthought until next year.
6. Danang Dragons (0-6)
The Danang Dragons certainly make this section of our weekly power rankings easy as they extend their losing streak to six straight games, losing their only matchup of week four, 58-67, at home against the visiting Buffaloes.
As the weeks, games, and losses pile on, the Dragons continue to distancing themselves from the rest of the pack; at the end of week three, the team was 4.5 games behind the leader and had a point differential of -76. This week, those margins have increased to 5 games and a difference of -85.
The effort is certainly there and this week’s game was definitely within reach, but the amount of overall talent on the Dragons continually fail in keeping pace with opponents for the entire duration of their games.
Rudolphe Joly and Horace Nguyen led the Dragons in scoring for another straight week, both scoring in double-digits with 19 and 14 points respectively. They did receive more help against the Buffaloes as they were joined by Tuan Nguyen Hoang who chipped in 10 of his own points, pushing the amount of members reaching double figures up to three as opposed to just two from week three.
What’s troubling here are the usage rates of both Rudolphe and Horace. In having to carry such a heavy scoring burden just to try and keep up with the Buffaloes, both players were forced to play 39-plus minutes. Though Horace Nguyen was also able to dish out seven assists, his shooting efficiency dropped substantially with an ugly 4 of 15 (27%) from beyond the arc, and 5 of 19 (26%) overall.
In week five, the Dragons will only have to play one game on a week’s worth of rest giving plenty of time for the team’s two leaders to prepare to play heavy minutes once again in a very winnable matchup at home against the City Wings.
5. Hanoi Buffaloes (3-4)
In week four, the Hanoi Buffaloes started off with a tough matchup against a visiting Heat team that had yet to taste defeat. Despite the unfavorable odds, the Buffaloes always seem to give the Heat trouble when the two square off with last Thursday’s game being no different.
Coming out firing from the opening tip, the home squad was playing with a level of energy and precision that the Heat were unable to match, going into the half up by nine while limiting the visitors to just five points in the second quarter.
Losing over three minutes of game time due to a clock issue that referees and just about everyone else in the arena failed to notice might have played some part in why the Heat were only able to muster five total points in the second period, but credit shouldn’t be taken away from the hosts.
In a back-and-forth tide of a game, the Buffaloes nearly gave the undefeated Heat their first loss and just missed out after an open, buzzer-beating layup by Vincent Nguyen rolled off the basket as time expired.
The Buffaloes were able to salvage their week, going 1-1 after defeating the Dragons 67-58 on Saturday night in an overall team effort as five members scored in double figures led by Jordan Collins’ 15. Though the big man continues to fire away from beyond the arc, the conversion rate isn’t getting any better as he went just 2 for 15 (13%) in the two week four games.
After going invincible last week and combining for just 12 of the team’s 143 total points between the two, the flash brothers resurfaced, accounting for 32 of the Buffaloes’ total 138 points including an 18 point game by Hoang Ca against the Heat. The numbers probably would’ve been more had Hoang played against the Dragons.
4. Ho Chi Minh City Wings (3-4)
Coming off a stunning, yet, convincing road victory against the Thang Long Warriors in Hanoi, the Ho Chi Minh City Wings were faced with another tough scheduling week, having to go up against two of the top three teams in the league.
Of all the teams in the VBA, the City Wings seem to be the most unpredictable, almost having a Jekyll-and-Hyde-like persona about them. After handing the second-place Warriors an 11-point defeat, the City Wings started off week four suffering a 14-point beating against the third-place Catfish in a game where victory was never really within reach.
The silver-lining here was the guard-center duo of Henry Nguyen and Bilal Richardson who accounted for 55 of the City Wings’ 71 total points in Can Tho in which the latter capped off his night with another monster double-double of 32 points and 19 rebounds.
Later on in the week, the City Wings played the second game of their seasonal “derby” matchups against the cross-town rival Heat. During that game, Bilal Richardson along with the Heat’s Darius Lewis were ejected early into the second period after a scuffle between the two imports.
Surprisingly enough, in a game where the visitors needed a player to step up in the absence of Richardson, it wasn’t Henry Nguyen, but local player Manh Luong Chi. With no real rim protection on the side of the Heat, the forward had his way, leading all scorers with 26 points. Minh Han also found his scoring touch, hitting double figures with 13 points off the bench.
It seems like the only way to stop Bilal Richardson is to throw him out of the game, but with an easier week five schedule, it should give more opportunities for role players on the team to step up once again.
3. Can Tho Catfish (4-3)
The Can Tho Catfish drop one spot down to third in the power rankings after going 1-1 during week four. Starting off the week at home in a matchup against the visiting City Wings, the three-headed monster of brothers Tam and Sang Dinh, along with DeAngelo Hamilton led the charge in a thorough dismantling of a team that came in riding on their high horse.
In a game where defeat was never a threatening issue, four members scored in double figures, ultimately led by Tam’s all-around effort of 28 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block. Although his scoring output wasn’t as high as Tam’s, Hamilton flirted with a triple-double adding 17 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and five steals. The three would combine for 57 of the team’s total 85 points.
A golden opportunity to truly solidify themselves as one of the top teams in the league was presented to the Catfish with a visit to Hanoi to face off against the second-place Warriors, the first matchup of the season between the two teams. All signs pointed upward, going into the deciding quarter as the visitors held onto a six point lead.
It all went downhill from that point onward as the Catfish were outscored in the final quarter 9-27. Tam Dinh was held to his second-lowest scoring output of the season, finishing with just 12 points while going 5 of 17 (29%) from the field, including 0 of 5 from deep. He clearly looked frustrated as he wasn’t getting calls and missed shots that he would normally make. Hamilton wasn’t as close to a triple-double this game, but still showed up with a nice double-double of 25 points and 20 rebounds.
So far on the season, the Catfish are winless against the top two teams in the league but will have another opportunity to step up when they face both the Heat and Warriors in week five.
2. Saigon Heat (5-1)
After occupying the top spot in the power rankings for two consecutive weeks, the Saigon Heat drop to second after narrowly escaping by one point against the fourth place Buffaloes and suffering their first defeat of the season by the hands of the fifth place City Wings.
Against the Buffaloes, David Arnold put on a show that fans have been waiting for all season long. The Heat guard poured in 29 points, six rebounds, and four assists while converting on 6 of 8 (75%) from deep and 10 of 15 (67%) overall in a shooting clinic. The Heat needed every bit of it as the usual scoring leaders from prior weeks had off-nights in the nation’s capital.
In the Heat’s second game of the week against their visiting inner-city rivals, the first place Heat were put into an unfamiliar hole with a second quarter ejection of key contributor Darius Lewis. During the game, a chink in the Heat’s shining armor was exposed: the team has no real inside presence or rim protection outside of their import big man.
For the majority of a game that was prolonged due to a power outage sustained in the opening moments of the third quarter, the Heat had no answers against City Wings’ bigs even with the ejection of Bilal Richardson at the same time that Lewis was thrown out.
David Arnold was forced to anchor a porous Heat defense that saw easy penetration from the opponent’s guards and forwards that had their way within the heart of the defensive scheme employed. The Heat ultimately lost the game by five points despite four members scoring in double figures.
A similar situation shouldn’t occur again for the remainder of the season, but the Heat will have to find ways to protect Darius Lewis especially when he gets into inevitable foul trouble down the road.
1. Thang Long Warriors (5-2)
The Thang Long Warriors finally sit atop the power rankings after winning their only game of the week against a formidable Catfish squad. It wasn’t the prettiest victory despite a rather convincing final score of 79-67, but the Warriors displayed grit when it counted most.
In harboring the defending Defensive Player of the Year in heritage player Justin Young as well as Vietnam’s most stalwart local defensive anchor in Nguyen Van Hung, the Warriors made life difficult for scoring sensation Tam Dinh, holding him to just 12 points on 29% shooting.
Going into the final and deciding quarter down by six points, the home team finished out strong, exploding for 27 points while limiting the opposition to just nine. Jaywuan Hill led the scoring charge with 19 of his game-high 37 points coming when the team needed it most. Hill would also go on to lead the team in rebounds with 10.
To Trung continued his breakout season as the only other member of the Warriors to score in double figures, adding in 19 points. The local guard went 3 for 5 (60%) from downtown including a clutch three-pointer with 39 seconds left to play, pushing the lead to six and ultimately thwarting any hopes of a Catfish comeback.
The victory pushes the Warriors to just half a game behind the league leading Heat for first place in the official standings and with a rematch against the Catfish in Can Tho during week five, give them another opportunity to distance themselves from the third place team as well.