I know we have talked about how unpredictable this season has been...but Week 12 was a little bit more straight forward with certain teams making an impact and others showing they belong in the contender conversation. We only have 2 weeks left and still anything can happen as the standings are as tight as ever. Top 12 get an invite to the playoffs and the top 4 get a bye in the first round. Now let's get right to it!
TIMBERWOLVES vs RAPTORS: The Wolves had a chance to play spoiler and make sure the Raps do not make the playoffs. The Raps were without their franchise player Davy and so this game was going to be alot tougher than they imagined. Pris returned to the Wolves even though he is battling an ankle injury but gave them great energy on the defensive end in limited minutes as he had a couples steals, block and 5 boards. The first half was ugly for both teams as they struggled to hit shots and the Raps in particular kept throwing the ball away. After 20 minutes of action the Raps were only up 3 (16-13) and so they were in real danger of taking an L in this one unless they stepped it up. The biggest shot of the second half was by Sankeeth who drained a triple to give them a 6 point lead (his second of the game) and that provided enough breathing room for the Raps to slowly crawl to the finish line. Shawn was a monster on the boards with 17 and he had to deal with Nathies, Trevor and Pris trying to outwork him for those but he was big in this one for the purple squad. Andy Leung also had a huge 'and1' bucket off a pass from Chris to seal it for the Raps. The Twolves were not shy about launching from deep...even Suthan let it fly a couple times...but they finished 1 for 22 from long range and Steven in particular had a night to forget as he went 0 for 9 from deep. A couple of those go in and this woulda been a different result and so the Raps must feel fortunate to escape with a victory. They should have a full squad now for their final game against the Bucks which will ultimately determine if they get into the playoffs or not.
Final Score: Wolves 29 - 37 Raptors Player of the Game - SHAWN PHILLIPS 5pts/17rebs/2asts - 50% Shooting
HORNETS vs SUNS: Still could not believe the Suns were under .500 coming into this game! I thought they would be one of the contenders for the chip but inconsistent play from their big 3 and poor defence has cost them so far. But this was a statement game and showed they can play some defence especially in the 2nd half against the Hornets and are now back at 5-5 for the season. I was on their bandwagon at the beginning of the season...then jumped off in the middle...now I am slowly running behind it willing to jump back on depending on what they do in their last game of the season. They had to face the 2-3 zone from the Hornets and early on they could not break the zone and settled for alot of outside shots which they missed. Zanoon in particular had some awesome looks but struggled finishing 2 for 11 from deep. He is one of the biggest x-factors in the league and if they somehow win the championship...look for him to have had a major impact on that. They finally decided to attack the middle of the zone with Jas or Abdul flashing to the centre to receive the ball and make the next appropriate pass to the cutter or 3pt shooter. This is always the most effective way of destroying the 2-3 zone and they were able to do that all second half as the Hornets barely adjusted. I get that this is their thing and Nishan loves to employ this strategy but they do have some good individual defenders and would have loved to see them switch it up more to throw the Suns off. Nishan led the league in assists last season but he decided to look for his offence alot more in this one and he did score 23 but it took him 25 shots to do so. I do believe he is going to have to step up the scoring for his squad but he also needs to be the facilitator and get 6 plus assists for this team to compete at a high level. Sen and Asok combined for more fouls than points and they will need to be much better for them to make noise this season. They are 4-5 and could potentially miss the playoffs which would be a massive dissapointment for GM Hari.
Final Score: Hornets 40 - 51 Suns Player of the Game - ABDUL WAHEDI 10pts/12rebs/6asts/1stl/4blks/0to - 2 Triples
HAWKS vs PISTONS: This game was suppose to be an intense one with friends and family battling it out but alot of that was lost due to the fact that Nirsan was injured and could not play. The Hawks have a deep squad but there is one guy they cannot afford to have miss games and that is their all-star big man. He still showed up to support from the sidelines but the Hawks were no match for Motor City in this one. Kris put on a show once again with 28 points on 50% shooting and he has put himself back in the MVP conversation now that they have snapped their 2 game losing streak. Regardless of the outcome, he has been averaging 29 points per game in his last 5 played and has been a box office attraction whenever he has stepped on the court. He got support from his wing-man Cam who had a Draymond Green type line with 11pts/7rebs/4asts/3stls/1blk as he continues to contribute in various ways to the squad. Manish was back from injury which was great to see but he doesn't look fully right yet but this was a step in the right direction. Sugee also drained a couple corner threes off some nice passes from Cameron and this is exactly what the Pistons need from him to keep the defence honest. He has battled a knee injury all year but if he can give them some spacing in his limited minutes it will be huge. Hawks are now just outside the playoff picture with one game left to go...they had won 4 out of 5 previous to this game and put themselves in a position to get into the dance but now they are going to have to win their last game and hope for some good fortune in the other games. You gotta play well and be healthy at the right times and unfortunately it has not gone that way for GM Patty but like I said earlier...anything could still happen .
Final Score: Hawks 31 - 53 Pistons Player of the Game - KRISOTH GNANENTHRA 28pts/6rebs/3asts/1stl - 50% Shooting
NUGGETS vs WARRIORS: A repeat of the finals matchup from season 3 but these teams were going in opposite directions coming into this game. The Nuggets were without Andy N while the Warriors were without Thanujaan in this one. The first half was very competitive between both clubs and the Nuggets really took it to the Warriors on the inside. Javan and Brendan were really looking for their shots and tried to use their size to their advantage against a smaller Warriors squad. The Warriors countered by moving the ball and getting some great looks from outside as they drilled 8 triples in the game including 3 from their stretch big Gopal. Gopal must have been practicing shooting 3's with Pascal Siakam as he as now hit 7 for 10 in the last 2 games! He was 4 for 29 prior to that as he was practicing with Russel Westbrick. His energy and hustle on defence was the difference in this one as the Nuggets did not have an answer for him as he finished with a game high 19. He is not their best player but is arguably the most important/valuable player for the Dubs. Amit with almost a triple double in this one with 14/8/7 as he was terrific once again. He is scoring about the same amount of points as last season but on 2 less shots per game this season! Also showed some sportsmanship at the end of the game by not trying to run up the score regardless of the pressure from his teammate. They are now in first place which is not all that suprising given the talent on the team but they have had to earn it this season with GM Gautham doing a terrific job managing the egos on the squad. Playoffs will be a different animal and we shall see if he can keep everyone in check on route to back to back championships. The Nuggets now have the worst run differential of the 12 playoff teams and their is still a chance they could get knocked out of the playoff picture!
Final Score: Nuggets 46 - 55 Warriors Player of the Game - GOPAL NARASIMHAIAH 19pts/8rebs/3asts/1stl/1blk/1to - 50% Shooting - 3 Triples
PACERS vs SIXERS: This was one heck of a performance from the Sixers squad who were missing their GM Rahul and Arjun. They had 6 players in uniform with their tallest player being 6 feet tall and so they would have to play as a team to beat the Pacers and they did exactly that. This was by far the best passing game of the year by any team as they combined for 21 assists on 24 field goals made!! This was led by LiShin who had a career high 10 assists and absolutely shredded the Pacers defence with is pinpoint passing. You have a bunch of good ball handlers/passers/shooters and athletic players who move without the ball and this was the end result. The chemistry has improved throughout the year and if they can figure out how to handle the disadvantage on the boards they will be a tough matchup in the playoffs. Sarwar has been excellent at getting open in the corners and drained 3 bombs for the 4th time this season! Flash and Kevin dropped 17 a piece and while Ara had a game high 5 steals and Zaid had a team high 7 boards! Total team effort and they now find themselves in the 5th spot with a chance to get into the top 4 with a victory in the last game. GM Rahul must be smiling from his homeland. The Pacers have now lost 2 in a row and finally look mortal again. Akshay was excellent as the Sixers like many other teams had trouble defending him...although their energy and hustle did forced him to commit 6 turnovers which definitely helped them. Machine Gun Ganen had 13/17/4 and chipped in 2 blocks as he had a big game in this one. Pacers played well enough to win but defensive lapses and turnovers really hurt down the stretch and they are going to have to regroup soon as the playoffs are on the horizon.
Final Score: Pacers 53 - 60 Sixers Player of the Game - LISHIN YEE 4pts/7rebs/10asts/2to
BUCKS vs MAGIC: The Magic have been off for a month due to their bye weeks and the holidays/Superbowl. Apparently they used this time wisely to practice on their game as a team and it definitely showed in this one. The Bucks were desperate for a win as they are trying to keep their playoff chances alive but just like all season long...they go through a rough patch in the game and they just end up folding. They were without Nishant but regardless the Magic were like a well oiled machine while the Bucks looked like a souped up 1998 two door Civic...yes it is very nice to look at but runs out of gas pretty quickly. The second half the Magic just blitzed the Bucks full court and quickly tired them out. The Magic were running traps, plays and motions all throughout the game and they are quickly becoming a serious title contender threat that you would not want to face in the playoffs. Vasko who has been incredible guarding the opposing teams best player...was tasked to guard 6'3 big man Chris D'Souza which is never an easy task but he held him to 4 of 14 shooting and only 12 points in another dominant defensive performance. Pras keeps doing a little bit of everything and finished with 9pts/4rebs/2asts and 4 stls!! The guy with the biggest impact in this one was Mr. Rameez Ahmed as he had a career high 14 boards and hit big shots all game. His energy and IQ on defence was on full display in this one and this Magic team continues to roll. They have a big matchup against the Lakers this week to further solidify themselves as a top team in the league. Bucks are on life support and we are just waiting for the Asian Doctor to put the needle in them...luckily they face the Raptors this week so they might not have to suffer much longer.
Final Score: Bucks 30 - 52 Magic Player of the Game - RAMEEZ AHMED 11pts/14rebs/2asts/1stl/1blk/0to - 55.5% Shooting
Written by: Kisho (Commissioner)