|The Saigon Heat take the first victory in a tense game against the Nha Trang Dolphins in VBA 2023 Final series. — Photo courtesy of VBA|
HCM CITY — The first game of the VBA 2023 Finals best-of-five series between the Saigon Heat and Nha Trang Dolphins was tense and dramatic until the last seconds.
The host Saigon Heat took a 98-95 victory after two overtimes, while the Dolphins showed people why they are the number one contender for the championship.
The match was held on Sunday (September 17) at CIS Gymnasium, District 7, HCM City.
Entering their first ever finals game, the Dolphins played with confidence and quickly scored the first points.
Huỳnh Vĩnh Quang and Nguyễn Phúc Vinh of the guests opened the scoring from the three-point line.
The great performance of the local duo and second chance points from Dominique Tham and Robert Sampson helped the guests take a lead of 20-6 after eight minutes of the first quarter.
Not wanting to be left too far behind, coach Matt Van Pelt of the Heat called timeout to discuss their play.
Kentrell Barkley and Hassan Thomas immediately scored points to keep close to their opponents
The first quarter ended with a score of 25-19 for the Dolphins.
In the second quarter, the Heat players continued to score points to narrow the gap to 28-26.
However, many turnovers caused the Heat to be left behind once again.
Three minutes before the break, the Dolphins took over the game with a double-digit gap of 41-30.
In the remaining minutes, the Heat still had no answer for their opponent and were helpless against the pressure created by the Dolphins
The score was 45-34 for the Dolphins before the break.
After halftime, the Heat score nine points, and Võ Kim Bản and Nguyễn Huỳnh Phú Vinh showed people why they are considered the best local VBA players at this time.
The duo dropped three-point shots to help the home team take its first lead with the score 53-50.
The home team continued their high performance until the end of the third quarter to take a lead of 66-58.
In the decisive quarter, Nguyễn Phúc Vinh and Dominique Tham scored points to start the Dolphins' comeback.
The score was 69-68 after three minutes of the last quarter.
The score was neck and neck until the last seconds.
In the last 30 seconds, Madarious Gibbs of the Dolphins and Kentrell Barkley of the Heat missed opportunities to end the match.
Mistakes from this pair of stars forced the two teams to enter the first overtime period with the score 78-78.
In the first overtime, both teams continued chasing each other.
With less than 10 seconds left on the clock, Dominique Tham made the stands burst into tears when he successfully made a three-point shot on his first try of the game to equalise the score 86-86.
The two teams had to enter a second overtime to decide the winner.
This time, Võ Kim Bản with his clutch shooting at the three-point line helped the home team take the lead 97-95 with only 20 seconds left.
The Dolphins tried to at least equalise with the remaining time but were unsuccessful.
Phú Vinh sealed the victory for the Heat at the free throw line.
The first finals game ended with the score 98-95 for the Saigon Heat.
Player of the Game Kentrell Barkley said after the intense game: "We are very happy with today's results. Our opponents played very well. However, the entire team had great shots today. I'm very proud of my teammates. This series of finals will be very difficult and we will continue to do our best to bring back the joy of victory to the fans."
Barkley had a double-double with 33 points and 21 rebounds. — VNS