The Wildcard games on Wednesday December 20th had its share of highs and lows. The winners get a birth into the quarter-finals where they will either face the #1 seeded Jazz or the #2 seeded Nuggets. Before we get into it, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We will be off until the All-Star game which is on January 6th, 2018 at 6pm. Come out and cheer on your teammates, friends and family! The following day will be the quarter-finals which will feature some incredible matchups. Shout out to GM Sayon, GM Ray, and Rahul for helping me at the scorer's table! You guys helped make everything run smoothly so props to you guys. Now let's get to it.
RAPTORS: This game was interesting just because the Raps have already beaten this stacked Warriors squad during the regular season. The Dubs had their full squad that game as well so the Raps had to feel good about their chances. I wrote previously in my recap that the Warriors sometimes play down to their competition and look sluggish at times. This time however, they were fully focused from the tip and absolutely outclassed the Raptors. That zone defence by the Warriors was once again in effect and the Raps just could not make any outside shots to punish them. The Raps have really gone cold from the field in the past month and this game was no different...and when they missed shots...Gopal made sure there were no second chance opportunities as he had a season high 19 rebounds!. Glenn and the interior bigs did a great job on Gopal on the defensive end holding him to just 2 points (2 freethrows) but the Warriors just have too many other weapons unlike the Raps. Saktish, Johan, Paolo, and Asok combined for 37 points for team orange and that was more than enough to take it home. Mayuran and Naren combined for 18 points in their first meeting but they were held to just 3 points in this one for the red team. The best way to penetrate the zone is to get the ball into the middle just above the freethrow line and the Raps did that a few times with JT. But he was not able to find shooters when they the defence collapsed (due to poor spacing and his team not giving him enough passing lanes) and he was not able to just take and make that freethrow jumper. The Raps have a solid defensive squad especially because of their guards but the Warriors have talented front court players and thus was not an ideal matchup for them. It's 2 year in a row now that GM Athavan's team has been bounced in the first round while the Warriors are now going to get the Nuggets in the quarter-finals! What a matchup that will be especially considering the beatdown the Warriors gave GM Ray's squad last week.
Final Score: Warriors 43 - 22 Raptors Player of the Game - Paolo Vergara 11pts/3rebs/2ast/2stls - 50% shooting
LAKERS: What a time to get the game of the year! The 8th seed Lakers versus the 9th seeded Twolves in a matchup that looked to be going one way but all of a sudden Mr. Thuva Sivasamy decided he did not want to go home yet! I previously stated in my last recap that if the Lakers get a big lead it was going to be incredibly tough to beat them because Kajen will swallow up every rebound and not give up many second chance opportunities. Plus they play at a slower pace than most teams and thus there just would not be enough possessions left in the game for the opponent to make a comeback. Well...I totally forgot that turnovers could ruin this plan!! Lakers were up 27 to 13 with 15 minutes left in the game...and then they were up 30 to 17 with 6 mins left!. Miresh makes a 3pt shot to give them this 13 point lead with roughly 6 minutes to go and with the Twolves making no shots what so ever...it looked to be game over. Cue the turnovers now...Thuva with a steal off Miresh for a layup...Suthan with a steal off Ed...a three second violation on Pan...Thuva with an incredible steal off Kajen as he also managed to keep the ball inbounds. Thuva was completely cold in the first half and halfway through the second half but he absolutely carried the Twolves during that last comeback stretch. He had 2 big steals, an 'and1' basket (made the freethrow), a 2pt jumper, and 2 big time triples and the lead was cut to 2 with 90 seconds left!! Now cue more turnovers...Ajanthan who was tasked with guarding 2 time All-Star Somi Ravin...was able to steal the ball off his hands late in the game and got fouled on the fastbreak attempt! Ajan had scored 1 point in his last 6 games...so this could be a clutch moment for him and his team if he could make these freebies...and he did exactly that by cashing both and tieing up the game. Somi then had a great drive and kick to a wide open Ed near the baseline and this is usually money for Mr. Rubiales but it just would not go down. Twolves run the clock down to 35 seconds and give it to their star Thuva to make one more play for them...Manish with a good pick on Pan and Somi decided to blitz the screen and trap Thuva (right thing to do for sure)...but Thuva reset and decided to go back to his right...and Pan now tried to reach in for the steal which eventually cost him as Thuva maneuvered around it and pulled up for the cold blooded jumper. That was one of the sickest 6 minute stretches by any individual in ETBL...offensively and defensively he put his team on his back and would not let them lose. Lakers still had an opportunity but once again...yes...I am going to say it...turnover!. Baseline out of bounds play as Ed tried an alley-oop layup to Kajen which was heavily guarded as PJ was able to knock the ball away to Thuva. Thuva hits one freethrow and misses the second to put them up 3 with 3 seconds left...and Kajen gets the rebound from his own baseline and throws an incredible football pass all the way down court right to Somi who gets the shot off and banks it in!!! (are you kidding me???)...but unfortunately he was a foot and a half inside the 3pt line and the Lake show lose by one. Incredibly frustrating for the Lakers but credit the Wolves for never letting up even when it seemed like it was over. Now for their victory they will get the Jazz in the quarter finals lol. Lakers had to persevere through alot of adversity this season and they should be proud that they fought hard every single game!
Final Score: Twolves 37 - 36 Lakers Player of the Game - Thuva Sivasamy 22pts/3rebs/5stls/1TO - 2 triples