Welcome to the 'Elite Eight' where the top 8 teams duke it out for a chance to be in the Final Four and one step closer to an ETBL Trophy. The Jazz and the Celtics won their wild card games and have joined the other top 6. In Season 2, we saw a couple of upsets with the Warriors upsetting the Nuggets. Asok's 3 pointer and a defensive stop by the Dubs in the last possession got them the victory and the Pistons upset the Kings in last season's quarter finals. The Blazers did one better with the shot heard around the Tamil Sports Community by Vijith to eliminate MVP Thanu and his Grizzlies. The Jazz sent Thuva home in Season 2 but will he get to the 2nd round this time with a better supporting cast.

#3 Warriors (8-3) vs #6 Bullets (6-5)

The finalist from last season are trying to erase their demons after losing in a 3 game heartbreaker series to the Jazz. GM Gautham rebuilt his team to have more grit and scoring this season with his draft selections in Season 3. This season the Warriors team is led by ETBL All-Star Asok who is averaging 16.4/8.6 this season and has taken the burden off reigning defensive player of the year Gopal in terms of rebounding from the middle position of their 2-3 zone. Amit was their prized addition and he had a slow start but found his way averaging 15/6/3 and has ignited the offense. The Warriors have great defensive guards with Anujan and Jeffrey who occasionally can hit the 3. Hari has been the sparkplug off the bench with his instant offense. GM Gautham has been steady with his defense and shooting. Last but not least the volatile Bahee who has changed his game to be more of a facilitator ala Draymond Green is leading the team with 3.9 assists (3rd in the league) and hits the occasional 3.  Warriors thrive when they rebound and push the pace on offense getting down the court early with easy baskets. Look for Bahee or Amit to run the pick and roll with Asok to get him going. Defensively they have to get out to the shooters on the Bullets.

Team Leaders

Points - Asok 16.4
Rebounds - Asok 8.6
Assists - Bahee 3.9

GM Patrick built a team of people he was familiar with starting by building around Javan Whittle who is his former Piston teammate. Javan has been stellar as he has the ball more, rebounds and makes plays for his team. 6th man of the year, Sam, is the key to this game as he was ineffective in the regular season because he got into it with Bahee. James Arakill is the guy shooting 30% from 3, in all their wins he has been shooting at a high clip. Prabath and Tharu provide the rebounding for this team and they will need to use their size against a smaller Warriors frontline and convert down low. GM Patrick, Chenthu, and Justin have to be glue guys getting steals, extra possessions through deflections. The Bullets will need to know how to break the 2-3 zone and ultimately make shots. On offense they need to move the ball from side to size and shift the zone.

Team Leaders

Points - Javan 14.6
Rebounds - Javan 7
Assists - James Arkill 3.0

Regular Season Match Up: Warriors 54 Bullets 39


#1 Nuggets (9-2) vs #8 Celtics (5-6)

The #1 seeded Nuggets had an incredible season finishing a spot better than last season but GM Ray does not want to be considered a regular season ETBL team. He has built the best defensive team in the league which has only allowed 482 points. He has brought back Defensive Guard of the Year, Dwayne Lubin, who has repeated his performance this season. His top pick was Chris Searles averaging 15.3/11 and who is everywhere on the floor. He has the 3 point champion Sen who is back with the Nuggets and is always an outside threat and is a great perimeter defender. He brought back Evan Chan who is a great guard and ball handler plus traded for bruising big man Trevor to shore up the frontline. He drafted ETBL season 1 Champion Glen Ting which I feel was a steal and he brings that winner aura to this team when surrounded by a solid supporting cast. He also drafted Arun again to be a solid agitator/defender that gets up in your face. GM Ray will hit the occasional 3 on whoever decides to cheat off him.  The Nuggets have been prone to play down to the level of the competition, they have a great defense but sometimes fail to take advantage on offense.  The game plan for the Nuggets is to pound it down low and slow the pace against a quick Celtic's team.  As far as defense, they will need to corral the bowling ball that is Umaraj but have good defenders such as Evan/Glen/Sen to disrupt him. Chris vs Abdul Wahedi will be a treat as both are double double machines.

Team Leaders

Points - Chris 15.3
Rebounds – Dwayne Lubin 11.5
Assists - Dwayne Lubin 3.6

Celtics blew out the Raptors last week and earned a spot in the Elite 8 and have the tools to give a decent fight against the top seeded Nuggets. It will come down to rebounding as Nuggets have that advantage. 3 players scored 15 points and that again will be needed for the Celtics to have a chance to win against this Nuggets team. Jey will need to control the glass against the Nuggets holding them to only one possession at a time. Umaraj will have to beat the Nuggets guards off the dribble as they will throw different looks so he must adjust. Celtics need to get easy baskets by running the floor. Jasinthan with a great 15 points but he needs to do it again as a stretch four which will give Uma some real estate to drive in. In the playoffs sometimes it comes down to others such as Jso , Jolly, and Aaron as they could have a day that is unexpected.

Team Leaders

Points - Uma 17.3
Rebounds – Abdul 9.6
Assists –Uma 3.6

Regular Season Match Up: Nuggets 50 Celtics 43


#4 Timberwolves (7-4) vs #5 Grizzlies (6-5)

This is an intriguing matchup of the 1st round playoffs. GM Suthan is back with his franchise Thuva after losing to the champs last year. This team revolves around their Big 3 with Thuva, Manveer, and Manish who are all above average 3 point shooters. Thuva has ability to put the ball on floor and drive to hoop and is the best defender on this team. Manveer has range and can post up, and Manish is the guy who does a little bit everything for this team as the glue guy of the 3. GM Suthan X factor will be Ragu Ravin, the brother of Somi, he has potential to have a big game with his ball handling and penetration.  Johan brings playoff experience after getting to finals last season, he is sparkplug for this team playing good defense against the guards and getting extra possessions through loose ball and offensive rebounding. Suthan brother Athaavan brings the physical toughness and rim protection. Thenu will give breathers to one of big 3 and plays well with Thuva. GM Suthan has to find minutes for himself in this game. Twolves will need to stop Anthony who has the potential to score 50 in a game plus have to handle the bigs of Nissan and Andrew. Look for Thuva to attempt to get these guys in foul trouble. Defensively expect Thuva to guard Anthony. Offensively Twolves will need to move the ball to get their shooters open with screens from Athavan or Manveer. A two man game with Manveer and Thuva can be expected. In the regular season matchup Manveer and Andrew V got into a trash talking match and Twolves lost, Manveer must keep his composure.Can Twolves get to the 2nd round for the 1st time?

Team Leaders

Points Thuva 18.7
Rebounds – Thuva 8.0
Assists -  Thuva 3.3

The Grizzlies are the team you don’t want to face in the 1st round. They are playing well towards the end of the season and have the tools for a long playoff run. It starts with Anthony averaging 27.9 ppg , he has been terrific for GM Vimal and possibly better than his predecessor Thanu but he was MVP . Can Anthony lead them further than last year? He has 2 solid bigs, Nissan has been on a tear lately with 20 and 10 potential every game and plus he is hitting his 3’s.  Vimal has turned down his shooting ways to passing the rock 2nd in the league 4.4 assists a game but still can knock down a jumper when needed.  Andrew V provides the post-game and allows the Grizzlies to slow down the game which I think will be an advantage.  Chandru is the glue guy with JR being the streaky shooter from outside. The Grizzlies bench is rounded out with Pandi and Andrew who will be needed to eat up minutes when the starters are resting. Grizzlies will try to get out and run look for Anthony leaking and outlet passes from the big men. Defensively they need to get to the shooters on those screens and not foul. 

Team Leaders

Points - Anthony 27.8
Rebounds – Nissan 11.7
Assists – Vimal 4.4

Regular Season Match Up: Grizzlies 53 Celtics 50


#2 Blazers (8-3) vs #7 Jazz (6-5)

The ETBL darlings from last year after the big shot from Vijth to send them to a semi-finals appearance but then losing to the Jazz. GM Annojh improved their team by adding the #1 pick NJ to form their own big 3 of sorts and has built a perfect small ball team as he upgraded from last season.  It starts with NJ and has lived up to billing of #1 pick averaging 18.1/9.1/3.5 leading the team then you Vave Ijith slotted over to the complementary player where he can do his damage with his accurate 3 point shot. Nishanth is the small forward who has improved from season 2 to season 3 and is comfortable as you can see he is making layups this season. GM Annojh orchestrates the game play by getting everyone in the right position for the possession but the issue still persists throughout his career will he shoot? Suren is their big setting screens, rolling to rim, and space eating. Naties was a great pickup, he is big enough guard bigs and mobile enough to guard mobile forwards and can hit the 3. Koby has played well this season and has been a solid contributor to the team’s 8-3 record. Blazers were #1 the whole season until two late season losses to the Lakers and Jazz left them with the 2nd seed and now playing the defending champs Jazz rather than the Celtics. The Blazers will look to push the ball and set a lot of screens to create movement and space. NJ will have to use his post-game but he will likely be guarded by Yaga who is a great defender so NJ will have to use his quickness. Vijith and Nishanth are the keys here they have to space the floor and slash to the hoop because NJ and Annojh will find them. In terms of defence its simple for the Blazers, gang rebound because the Jazz are at their best when they rebound and get 2nd chance opportunities. They can’t let the other guys beat them should be their strategy, Demone will get his but minimizing the other players will be a key victory agains the defending champions.

Team Leaders

Points - NJ 18.1
Rebounds – NJ 9.1
Assists – NJ 3.5

The Defending Champs Jazz had a come from behind win against the Lakers and showed the heart of a champion and kept the repeat alive. They had 56 shots compared to 42 of the Lakers exemplifying their ability to get extra shots. Yaga, Demone, and Jenush all collected 11 rebounds apiece and will have the advantage against this smaller Blazers team so that must continue.  They also accounted for the 35 pts of 41 pts they scored which needs to change for this game.  Joseph, Zaid, and Thannojh struggled but expect them to bounce back in this game with encouragement from GM Sayon. I expect the Jazz to slow the pace of the game and work with Yaga in the post and Demone, Zaid, and Thannojh waiting outside for the 3 or taking it to the rim. Defensively the Jazz matchup well with the Blazers with Yaga on NJ, Joseph on Nishanth, and Demone on Vijith but their bigs have to stay out of foul trouble , the Blazers have players to draw fouls. My bet is that this game will be most entertaining game after Jazz routed the Blazers in last season semi-finals en route to their championship.

Team Leaders

Points - Demone 13.2
Rebounds -Yaga 6.9
Assists - Demone 3.3

Regular Season Match Up: Jazz 41 Blazers 38