The second last week of the regular season came and went and we had some thrillers to say the least! 4 of the 5 games were nail biters and there were alot of GM's who were happy after the outcomes. It is going to be a wild ride from now till the finals and so everyone needs to buckle up their seatbelts. Shout out to GM Ray for coming on his off week and helping us out! Now let's get right to it!
PISTONS vs CAVALIERS: Two teams with identical records and a bunch of history squared off to start off the night. This was deemed the 'Cheeseburger Bowl' due to the written comments by 'MotorMouth' (GM Sugee) who famously stirred things up in his first Preseason Power Rankings. The Cavs were looking forward to this game but it was the Pistons who played a strong first half to take a 6pt lead. Manish got it going from long range and this was something the squad was missing when he was away with injury. He hit 4 triples and also had 4 rebs, 3asts, 2stls and a block! He looks like he is almost fully healthy and he is going to be an important x-factor come playoff time. A lot of chippy play throughout the 2nd half and it was to be expected with underlying tension between the clubs...Yaga picks up a tech in the 2nd half...Kris hits the freethrow to put the team up by 2 and it seemed like a momentum shifting point in the game but Harrison was not going to be denied in this one. Big steal by Thannojh off GM Sugee and then Harrison gets fouled on the way to the basket and he calmly drains both to tie the game late. Then with the game hanging in the balance...Harrison comes through again with the deadly step back triple in tight space to give the Cavs the lead. On the ensuing inbound play, Cameron tosses the ball to Manish who was trying to call timeout but they end up turning it over as Joseph gets a hand on the ball and that was the ball game. This was definitely a learning situation for the Pistons and they will need to be better in the playoffs. Kris and Hari went at each other in a entertaining showdown but Mr. Pon gets the last laugh in this one. He stated that he had 'mac sauce in his veins' after that big shot LOL. MotorMouth GM Sugee will have to now face another tough opponent in the Lakers who he also talked trash about...
Final Score: Pistons 48 - 53 Cavaliers Player of the Game - HARRISON PON 20pts/4rebs/5asts/2stls/blk - 54% Shooting - 4 Triples
LAKERS vs MAGIC: This was an anticipated matchup as one team was on fire (Lakers) for all of 2019 and the other team was rising through the standings (Magic). Both teams rely on defence as their backbone and try to grind you out. The biggest difference was the fact that the Magic were more prepared from a strategy standpoint and also in terms of running plays and traps. They have now used the full court press in back to back games and have absolutely put tons of pressure on the opposing team. This lead to at least 5 or more turnovers by the Lakers and they were never fully able to get into a rhythm. There were tons of turnovers by both teams in the early going which really made the game look sloppy and unwatchable at certain points. In the end the two standouts were Baki and Vasko who were all over the place in this one. Baki was hot from downtown and really carried the offence and looks to be in such a comfortable groove with this squad. GM Wilbert was really able to unlock this teams potential after acquiring him in trade and now they have a chance to finish first place in the standings with a win against the Wolves next week. Yes, the team that was highly disrespected in the initial power rankings by none other than 'MotorMouth'...it has been one of the craziest stories in ETBL history but all the credit goes to every single player on this team who has believed and put in the work. Back to other dude who was incredible in this one (Vasko) as he blanketed Usamah with his length and was also terrific as a help defender. He finished with 6 steals and a block!! He takes on the toughest assignments and plays his butt off and the Magic have thrived because of it. Lakers finally lose in the new year but this will reenergize them just before the playoffs. Big matchup against the rival Pistons this Sunday!
Final Score: Lakers 31 - 39 Magic Player of the Game - BAKI KARUNANITHI 22pts/5rebs/3asts/2stls - 50% Shooting - 4 Triples
TIMBERWOLVES vs PACERS: This was the extra game given to the Timberwolves as one team from the bottom of the standings gets the lucky bonus. It has been a miserable season for them so this was a small consolation. They had paramedics on the side in case this game got ugly but who knew it would end up being for the Pacers who nearly escaped death! Both teams came into the game with only 5 guys as the Pacers were missing their All-Star Akshay along with their GM Vimal. Would we be in store for an upset? Well early on it was 12 to 0 for the Pacers and it looked like it was going to be a blowout. It was then 29 to 14 for the yellow team but this is when it got interesting as the Wolves went on a run. Nick started heating up and drilling shots as he finished with a game high 24 and did all he could to will his team to their first victory. He was often double and triple teamed but his ball handling allowed him to navigate through and keep his dribble alive. The second half the Twolves were a force on the boards with Trevor and Athavan as they combined for 29 total for the game and it kept them within reach of the Pacers. Fastforward to the dying moments of the game where the Pacers held a 3 point advantage as Ganen hit a big triple after getting the offensive board on a missed freethrow by Komathan. The Wolves however were not done just yet as the highlight of the evening happened when GM Suthan drilled an open triple to tie things up and had the gym going crazy. It was only his third triple of his career!!! This heartwarming moment only lasted a few seconds as Andrew got fouled with 10 seconds left on a layup attempt. Ed from the Heat was the referee who called it and he was an emergency fill in for Ali. The Wolves were unhappy with the call and even though it was the correct call...it was a tough time to call it with the game on the line. This is where composure is important and we saw the Wolves were not fully engaged at the line still thinking about the call or other stuff...and Andrew misses both freethrows (he had a great game otherwise with big time triples and defensive blocks) but the Wolves fell asleep and let Paolo sneak in for the offensive board and prompty got fouled on the putback attempt (which they were also upset about lol). Paolo misses the first...everyone rooting for him to miss the 2nd as they wanted to see overtime and have the Wolves win their first game of the season...but he sinks in the second and the Pacers barely beat the lowly Timberwolves. They secured a top 4 spot and will be off for 2 weeks before the Quarter-Finals but they need to get back to playing at a high level or else it could be a quick exit.
Final Score: Wolves 51 - 52 Pacers Player of the Game - ANDREW VERESCAK 9pts/7rebs/2asts/1stls/2blks/1to - 60% Shooting - 3 Triples
WARRIORS vs HORNETS: This was a big moment for the Hornets...they were missing Luxshan and GM Hari who is dealing with an ankle sprain...they had to face a tough Warriors squad who were missing Thanujaan...and they were coming off 2 beatdowns courtesy of Sixers and Suns. Can Nishan reach back and channel that Mamba Mentality for this game? We did not have to wait long as he hit back to back triples in the early going to give them an early 4 point lead after trailing 7 to 0 to start the game. He was vocal throughout and played like this was a do or die game...the rest of the team did enough early on to keep it competitive. For the Warriors, it was Michael who got the call into the starting lineup and he delivered big time with 14pts/6rebs/3asts and played solid defence. GM Gautham was also fantastic with 4 triples and chipped in 5 boards and 3 assists as he continues to improve as an outside shooter. Regardless of the efforts of these guys the Hornets were just too hungry in this one and with a loss could have been outside the playoff bracket which would be extremely dissapointing for a talented squad like theirs. They built up a 10 point lead 52 to 42 and it looked like they would cruise to victory but but Michael and Gautham hit 3 triples in a row to cut the lead to 1 with very little time left on the clock. Amit now gets fouled on a drive and has a chance to take the lead with freethrows...a 64% freethrow shooter on the season...but misses both in a pressure situation and the Hornets hang on for a thriller. Even when they were up 10, Nishan was demanding attention to detail but his team failed to close out on shooters and overhelped on drives by Amit and Bahee which gave the Warriors a chance to get back into it. If the Hornets can clean up some things around the edges they can definitely be a dangerous team in the playoffs led by the Black Mamba.
Final Score: Warriors 51 - 53 Hornets Player of the Game - NISHAN THURAI 27pts/13rebs/1ast/1stl/1blk - 53% Shooting - 6 Triples
RAPTORS vs BUCKS: This was going to decide a lot...I mean it was a must win situation for the Bucks who find themselves in this awful situation and it was a big game for the Raps who had their full squad. The Bucks however were missing Nishant and Chris D'Souza and Sushan! Vegas odds heavily favored the Raps because of those circumstances and teams such as the Hornets, Suns, Nuggets, and Pistons were now all on high alert as they would not clinch a playoff spot if GM Chris Cruz and company came through with a W. All year we have adopted the 'anything is possible' slogan and once again that was in full effect in this one as the wounded Bucks put on a show and lit up the Raps for 37 in the first half! A 13 point advantage playing with no subs and they absolutely picked apart the zone defence by the Raps. Why they were even playing zone made no sense whatsoever...any team that has a full squad against no subs should not be playing zone and they paid dearly for it early on. As soon as it got switched up to man defence the Raps slowly started chipping away at the Bucks and Davy dropped a game high 26 points to get them back in it and eventually cut the lead to 2 points late in the game. Annojh was able to secure the bag with a no-look feed to Vijith for a layup as the Raps completely lost him on the baseline. Jorge made it interesting again with a late triple but the Bucks still held on barely to keep their season alive. Just a flat out bad loss by the Raps and there really was no excuses for it. If the Hawks win on Sunday against the Bucks...it will send the Raps home early this season and there were numerous opportunities for Chris' squad to not be in this position (the Bucks know how that feels as well). But they at least have a shot where as the Bucks would need a 48 point miracle win against the Hawks to get in...anything is possible?
Final Score: Raptors 54 - 56 Bucks Player of the Game - Vijith 21pts/5rebs/3asts - 4 Triples