Taipei, March 18 (CNA) The New Taipei Kings demonstrated the depth of their roster Saturday by overcoming the loss of players for a road win against the P.LEAGUE's (PLG) two-time defending champion Taipei Fubon Braves 97-90.
With the win, the league-leading Kings improved to 21-6, five games ahead of the second-placed Braves (16-11).
The game was a convincing testimony to the depth of the Kings' roster. Despite the absence of Byron Mullens and the temporary leave of reigning regular season MVP Amigo Yang (楊敬敏), the team eased to a 16-point lead at halftime and continued that momentum in the second half to wrap up a strong overall performance.
Prior to the game, the Kings had scored the most average points per game with 99.8, an achievement based on the contributions of its bench players and starting local players. The team leads the league in the two categories with 70.5 and 60.8 average points per game, respectively, according to GC.Basket.
The emphasis on local talent is important especially when considering the rules and trends of the league. Only two imported players can be on the floor for a PLG team at any one time in the first three quarters and only one in the last quarter. In addition, all teams except the Taoyuan Pauian Pilots start their two imports with three locals.
Joseph Lin, who tied Kenny Manigault for a team-high 21 points plus six rebounds and nine dimes, praised the bench after the game.
"Our players came off the bench very strong today when we (starters) rested," Lin said, proud of how the Kings dealt with the absence of Mullens as a team.
The 39-year-old Yang, who usually plays as a starter, led the Kings' bench with 19 points, followed by 17 points from Quicy Davis, now 40.
Yang left the court for nearly a whole quarter after a right knee injury saw him carried off the court by his teammates with about three minutes remaining until halftime. He returned to the court with four minutes and 20 seconds left in the third quarter.
That incident could have weakened the Kings' morale, given that their big man Byron Mullens was undergoing weekly observation after straining his right calf muscle against the Braves on March 12.
Before missing his first game this season Saturday, the American 7-footer played all of the Kings' 26 games, recording an average 22.1 points and 16.1 boards, the most in the league.
However, the Kings not only survived, but got stronger. By the time Yang returned, the team had increased their lead from eight to 15 points and maintained that advantage until the end of the game.
The latest victory represents the Kings' first win over the Braves since the Lunar New Year break and maintains the New Taipei team's lead over the Taipei side during the regular season.
The two teams will meet in the regular season for the last time on April 15.