Forget about a historic gold or silver medal.
If Singapore's basketball men are to retain their bronze medal at the South-east Asia Games, they have got to improve in all departments.
Last night at the South-east Asia Basketball Association Championship, Singapore lost 58-49 to Malaysia in a feisty Causeway Derby in front of a vociferous 1,700-strong home crowd at the OCBC Arena.
National men's basketball coach Neo Beng Siang told The New Paper there were no positives he could draw other than a timely wake-up call ahead of the Games, which will be held here from June 5 to 16.
Still seething, he said: "We played terribly, and the players didn't listen to instructions.
"Their shots from the three-point line were poor, and they didn't get inside more to shoot."
While Singapore did well in the first half to lead 27-23, they unravelled after an unsavoury incident on the stroke of half-time, following some disgraceful behaviour from Malaysia's centre Koh Way Teck.
With Singapore's shooting guard Ng Hanbin knocked to the ground, Koh attempted to humiliate his opponent by striding over Ng's body. The latter reacted by trying to get to his feet, and the referee duly ejected both players.
The controversy seemed to affect Singapore more, with their wayward shooting lasting for a whole seven minutes at the start of the third quarter.
Backed by the partisan home support, they rallied from 36-29 down to score seven straight points and draw level, only for some slack defending to allow Malaysia to nail a three-pointer at the buzzer and go into the final quarter 39-36 up.
More trouble ensued for Singapore as Larry Liew and Wu Qingde fouled out and Malaysia, whom they beat 71-67 at the last SEA Games, capitalised to gradually pull away to win by nine points.
The one piece of good news for Neo and his team came from the SEA Games draw, where Singapore were drawn in Group B with 2013 SEA Games silver medallists Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.
They avoided defending champions the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, who are in Group A with Timor Leste.
Said Neo: "To do better than 2013, we need to win our group and avoid the Philippines in the semi-finals.
"We still believe we can do better than 2013. We felt the home support tonight and hope Singaporeans will continue to back us at the SEA Games."
This article was first published on May 1, 2015.
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