The Quarter-Finals took place on Sunday January 7th and it might have been the greatest night of ball we ever had! Teams played their heart out and it sucked that 4 teams were sent home packing in the end but they should not be shamed as they all had a great year and just came up a little short. Season 3 will be in February and thus they will not have to wait long to get back and try to claim the ETBL throne. Let's get right into it.
TIMBERWOLVES: On paper this may have seemed like a mismatch as the top seeded Jazz were arguably heavy favorites against the 8th seeded Twolves. But the Jazz played their last game on Dec 17, 2017 and thus had a really long layoff and could have some rust...but GM Sayon was prepared and had them practicing over the holidays so that they would not miss a beat. The Twolves were gonna depend on Thuva to carry them but needed some support players to step up as well either offensively or defensively. The luxury for the Jazz is that they can throw one of the best defenders in the league (Yaga) to try and limit Thuva which is exactly what he did. Thuva ended up 3 for 13 for a total of 11 points and considering how hot he was the last month or so...that was an incredible job by Yaga (with some help from Zaid). Thannojh hit a midrange bucket to push the lead to 8 early in the first half but credit the Wolves for never giving up and battling the whole game. They were missing Steven Wong which meant Manish would have to shoulder most of the ball handling role. He stepped up with 11 points and 6 rebounds but also had some costly turnovers (7) as the Jazz did a good job of pressuring him when he had the ball as soon as he crossed half court. The Timberwolves cut the lead to one possession (33-36) and momentum was on their side but the Jazz went on a 7 to 0 run to slowly put things out of reach. Demone makes a dagger 3 and Yaga follows that up with a clutch 2 to send the Jazz into the semi-finals. Pirasaanth had some beautiful post moves and needed to get the ball more as he was a handful for the Jazz! The Jazz did not play their best game at all but they found a way to grind it out. Demone has really been trying to become more of a playmaker which makes him even more dangerous to guard. He handed out a game high 5 assists and has been doing a great job lately of knowing when to attack and when to look for teammates. GM Suthan had an interesting draft and pulled off a blockbuster at the trade deadline...looking forward to seeing what direction/style he will come up with in the next draft. Jazz get the Blazers in the semi's and that is going to be a fun matchup to say the least!
Final Score: Jazz 48 - 38 Twolves Player of the Game - Demone Lewis 12pts/9rebs/5asts
NUGGETS: 20 to 12 lead at half-time for the Nuggets and no Paolo for the Warriors (he was on vacation) and so it looked like GM Ray was going to make quick work of the men in orange. However, I saw a spirited exchange between Jolly and Gopal to try and get the 9th overall draft pick to start playing like a first rounder! Gopal definitely did that as he started crashing the boards and ramping up the intensity on defence as well as being extremely vocal. He was just coming off playing in a hockey tournament and you can tell his energy level was not even at 50 percent for the first half. The second half the Warriors started to play their game and like they have all season...the role players started stepping up as well. Johan and Gautham started moving the ball better on offence...Jolly started grabbing boards...Saktish nailing 3 big freethrows when he got fouled...and eventually they cut the lead down to one point. The Nuggets kept bending the entire second half as they tried desperately not to give up the lead. At times it looked like they were just trying to figure out how to beat the zone instead of just being aggressive. Don't get me wrong...they had some tremendous looks especially from long range in the corners but they were not able to get them to go down. In a one game situation where it's win or go home...a shot here or there makes all the difference. Asok who tried to carry the offensive load came up with just a flat out clutch 3 point shot to finally take a 2 point lead over the Nuggets in the late stages. The defender was on him but he has the length to shoot over most people! The Nuggets had a chance to tie or win the game but GM Gautham had already asked us for the foul count and knew he had 2 fouls to give. The Warriors then proceeded to use those fouls wisely and now left the Nuggets with less than a few seconds left on the clock and they had to inbound from the baseline. Now since I have seen every Nuggets game...I remember they pulled out a beautiful baseline out of bounds play to get themselves a wide open layup underneath the basket and I was thinking this would be a great spot to run it...and right on cue they did exactly that but this time the Warriors defender was able to bat the ball away and back out of bounds. So with about 2 seconds left now, they ran some off ball picks for Sen and he got off a 3pt shot from the corner which was being contested by Jolly and it hit front iron and out. Amazing job by Jolly to fight through and make it as tough as possible on Sen without fouling him!. Great comeback by the Dubs and tough luck for the Nuggets who played exceptionally well all year. They had players in and out of the lineup, players dealing with injuries, and GM Ray still got the most out of them! Warriors now face the Pistons and we shall see if their zone defence will also be effective against them.
Final Score: Warriors 34 - 32 Nuggets Player of the Game - Asok Arutselvan 13pts/4rebs/2asts - 2 triples
GRIZZLIES: BEST...GAME..OF...THE...YEAR!!! I thought the previous game was very good but these guys managed to blow that out of the water. Just a back and forth affair the entire game...the Grizz started out well with an 11 to 3 lead but after that it was close throughout. Once again the gang rebounding for the Blazers kept them in it as 5 guys had at least 5 rebounds! (Prabath, Annojh, Nishant, Vijith, Bahee). The ability to never give up and battle on the offensive glass was huge as the Grizz just were not able to close out possessions effectively. Let's fast forward to the end of regulation where Suren hits a big shot to give them the lead off a pass from Annojh but Thanujaan answers with 2 clutch freethrows to send this game to overtime (of course this game would go to OT lol). For the Grizz it was simple...give the ball to arguably the best player in the league and let him work...Thanujaan had 18/7/3 with 2 steals but he shot 5 for 24 from the field. Annojh is known for his passing but he is an underrated defender and did as well a job as anyone has on him this season! In overtime, Nishant hits 1 of 2 from the line to give the Blazers an early lead but Andrew answers back with a big shot to reclaim the lead. Nishant once again answers with a big bucket and like we have all game...just two teams boxing back n forth and landing big punch after big punch. GM Vimal who has been relatively quiet all game comes up with a clutch steal off Vijith which eventually leads to Thanujaan getting fouled and shooting 2 freethrows to once again try and reclaim the lead. Thanu had his struggles from the line in the regular season but shoots them very well in big moments and he did that again as he calmy sunk both to give Grizz the 1 point lead with 2.4 seconds left in overtime. Little did we know that the haymaker to this prize fight was still to come as Mr. Vijith Nava delivered one of the biggest daggers in ETBL history with his 3 point bomb that had the Logos Centre going bananas. The way this game was going I just had a feeling there was one more play that was meant to happen and thus I had my digital camera ready and filmed the highlight of the season from the perfect angle. The clip will be posted on our instagram/facebook page this week so definitely check it out. Blazers had called a timeout so they were able to advance the ball to halfcourt where Annojh was incredibly patient and let the play develop (he knew he had one more timeout as he had just asked the scorer's table). As soon as Vijith flared off after setting an offball screen for Nishant...Annojh threw the crosscourt pass on the money to Vijith who did the rest! Heartbreaking for the Grizz as they had high aspirations for this season but it was a good season nonetheless. Team Karaoke Blazers will now battle the Jazz in the semis and both these teams seem to have some of the best chemistry in the league. Did I expect the Blazers to be in the final four? No...but I did say if they worked on gang rebounding, had a couple of their role guys step up, and for Vijith to be a playmaker as well...they would have just a chance as anyone. Congrats Ripcity.
Final Score: Blazers 42 - 40 Grizzlies Player of the Game - Vijith Nava 14pts/11rebs/3asts/1stls - 3triples
KINGS: Everyone was telling me how this would be the game to look forward to. We had 2 contenders who should have probably squared off later in the playoffs...are now facing off in the quarter-finals. They also just played each other in the last game of the regular season but Javan and Usamah were both missing for that one as well as Louie for the Kings and thus we could not really draw any conclusions from it. Both teams battled early on and we had a 1 point lead at halftime for the Pistons. The key matchups were Javan against Zayn and Louie against Usamah. The second half is where Usamah really imposed his will and hit some timely baskets and got to the freethrow line. He also played some great defence on Louie as he put enough pressure without being overly aggressive and committing fouls! Louie would usually be able to make direct passes to his teammates and get them the ball in the right spots but this time he was forced to throwing passes from further out and under duress which led to a few turnovers. Javan also did an admirable job on Zayn who still ended up with 17 points and 15 rebounds but he had to work for everything and nothing was easy. In the end the Kings just did not look like the same team from regular season...the loss of Babith also hurt as he could have relived some of the ball handling duties from Louie and gave them a shooting presence on the floor. The ball and player movement was not the same and it ended up costing them. This is another team that had high hopes for this season as they had 3 All-stars on the roster and potentially the 6th man of the year in Sam Iskander but they fall short and will now wonder what could have been. The Pistons are legit and will face off against the Warriors in what could be an all time ETBL classic! Run and Gun.
Final Score: Pistons 43 - 32 Kings Player of the Game - Usamah Siddiqi 17pts/7rebs/2asts/2stls/1TO - 2 triples