The gym was packed (thanks to all the supporters)...the lights were bright (it was win or go home time)...the floors were mopped (wife taught me well I guess)...fresh new nets were hung (shoutout to Kris and his friends Wilbert n Witness who acted as human ladders to help him put it up last week)...the stage was set for war! It definitely sucks to see teams get eliminated but they should be proud to have made it to the elite 8 and hopefully they can take the next step the following season. Thank you to Rahul and Ara for helping cleanup at the end of the night!! Now let's get right to it.
HEAT vs WARRIORS: The quarter-finals kicked off with the defending Champs looking to take care of business against Milton and the Heat. The most common strategy teams employed to deal with Milton is to play zone and collapse on him when he gets the ball in the paint...the Dubs decided to play it straight man to man and then have one other guy ready to help in the paint (usually Bahee/Gopal). They fronted him a bunch of times and tried to make it difficult for him to receive the ball cleanly and they did a heck of a job for the most part. He was held to 9 points and 4 offensive rebounds and there is not much more you can hope for if you are the Warriors. Thanujaan was also terrific guarding Glenn on the defensive end as Glenn is a vital part of the teams success and he was held scoreless! Thanu also moved the ball beautifully on offence and basically did a bit of everything for this squad. Amit had a game high 16 and really carried the offence early on and it was just another dominant performance by the team that knows how to win in the playoffs. As for the Heat it was a dissapointing end to what was a solid season for them but it felt like the chemistry was never fully there...they were not all aligned or in sync for the entire game. If Billal does bring back the squad he will need to make a few tweaks either in roster or in terms of game strategy to get the most out of this group. He has the most doiminant big man in the league but yet the team still forgets about him sometimes...he is also a very willing passer and led the team in assists! He is the biggest piece of the puzzle and finding the smaller interconnecting pieces to fit with him will allow you to view the big picture. They are only missing one or 2 puzzle pieces in the box as the majority of them are in there just scrambled up...GM Billal will have to find a way to put them together next season.
Final Score: Heat 29 - 44 Warriors Player of the Game - THANUJAAN THAVASEELAN 9pts/6rebs/4asts/3stls/0to
SUNS vs MAGIC: This game was entertaining to say the least as both teams were hungry to get into the final 4. One of my favorite players in the league to watch is Abdul Wahedi. He is reserved and quiet for the most part but lets his game do the talking and after being shut down by Defensive Player of the Year candidate (Vasko) in their first meeting (only 7 points)...I wanted to see what type of response he would have in this playoff game against him and he did not dissapoint as he was aggressive early and often and ended up with 21/7/2 on only 12 shots! It was the first time in a long time that someone had this good a game against Vasko as he has been terrific against the best players on each team. The Suns have been without PJ due to an ankle injury but they were still able to outrebound the Magic and kept the game close and competitive. In the playoffs you have to be playing well and be as fully healthy as possible and it sucks that they did not have the services of a couple of their players but the Suns still had enough talent to do damage. It looked like they were running out of gas down 40 to 32 with less than 6 minutes to play in the game...but they got a huge triple by Zanoon to get the crowd buzzing and Abdul made a two and a big triple himself to take a 1 point lead...the Magic were stunned temporarily. Wilbert made a couple timely freethrows to regain the lead and the biggest shot of the game was made by someone who has not even been with the team for over a month (Jeff Shea) and it was unsure if he would even be able to return to them...but holy sh*t...dude returns and only takes one shot in the game...in limited minutes...in one of the biggest spots in the game...and it rattles around and in for a dagger 3 which pushed the lead to 4. It's hard not to root for this Magic squad that has gotten contributions from everyone on the team at different points in the season and this was just another example. Coach Puvi also worked his Magic when it came to running plays and they ran a few which kept getting them open shots almost every single time. He also ran the substitutions flawlessly and made some shots himself and the team needed every point. Baki was Baki with a game high 22 points and there really no answer for him by the Suns. This would have been crazy to say this after draft day but...the Magic...are headed to the Semi-Finals.
Final Score: Suns 44 - 50 Magic Player of the Game - BAKI KARUNANITHI 22pts/6rebs/2asts/3stls - 54% Shooting - 2 Triples
PACERS vs PISTONS: It was a battle of MVP front runners (Akshay vs Kris)...a battle of friends (Sugee/Sanjoo vs Vimal)...a battle of Caucasians (Steve vs Andrew)...the game just about had it all! On paper it seemed like the Pacers might have too much size and length for the Pistons to handle but the Pistons did have the most dynamic player in the game and so they could not ever be counted out. This game was basically like the Pacers were trying to wake up to go to work in the early morning...but they would hit the snooze button to get a bit more sleep in...then they would hit it again to get just a bit more...then they would realize they are going to be late to work so they scramble out of bed and try and get ready as fast as possible...but in the end they still ended up being late. The first half they were lethargic and slow and the Pistons just hit them in the mouth repeatedly and built up an 11 point lead. It was 39 to 27 in the middle of the second half when they finally got out of bed and started scrambling...Akshay finally started to get aggresive and the Pistons could not stop him as he either went to the line or made a shot in the paint. Ganen was solid with 10pts, 9rebs, and 5asts as he helped feul the comeback with his speed and passing...and Andrew hit a big 3 in the corner to cut the lead to 4! They would keep pushing the pace as Ganen and Paolo were excellent in transition and they had the lead cut to a single point in the dying moments. On the next play they had Komathan guarding Kris and they sent the double team as you don't want him to beat you in this spot and made him get rid of the ball...only problem is...both defenders left him alone once he passed the ball and Kris ran to the right corner and got the rock back and hit an insane fade away triple with a defender trying to close out on him!! Definitely a mental mistake by the Pacers but it was still a very difficult shot in a pressure situation to say the least. Manish and Cam combined for 20...Steve and Sugee combined for 9 rebounds...Sugee even outhustled Akshay to grab an offensive rebound late in the 2nd half which pretty much sums up the game. Long off season for GM Vimal but this team was definitely talented enough to make a deep run. Sugee makes his 3rd semi-finals in four seasons but he will try and reach his first finals ever.
Final Score: Pacers 45 - 51 Pistons Player of the Game - KRISOTH GNANENTHRA 29pts/9rebs/2asts/1blk/1to - 53% Shooting - 2 Triples
CAVALIERS vs SIXERS: Three teams had already stamped their way to the Semis and now it was down to the Cavs and Sixers to battle it out for the last spot. The first half was a gritty battle between both clubs and although the score was almost even after 20mins...it seemed like the momentum, energy, focus, and confidence was all on the Sixers side. Every shot they made in the first half was celebrated and the entire team just seemed hype from the opening tip like they all drank 3 cans of redbull right before the game. The second half was much more of the same as Flash lived up to his name and was just too quick for the Cavs and constantly kept getting into the driving lanes and causing havoc while Kevin and LiShin torched the Cavs from the perimeter. All three combined for 48 points and really stepped up for their squad! They played a 3-2 zone paying close attention to Ainkaran and it was pretty successful for the most part as they have mobile athletic defenders that can close out on shooters. The Cavs cut it down to a one possession game down the stretch and Flash had a chance to extend the lead but he missed the single bonus...but unfortunately for the Cavs they allowed him to get his own rebound and they ended up having to foul Kevin who sealed the game with 2 freethrows. Cavs had second chance opportunities but some of their x-factors were not able to come through and Harrison was not able to bail them out this time as he finished with 18 on the night. This is a team that relies on its passing and perimeter shooting but they were not able to come up with key shots during the game and the Sixers were able to. The Cavs had a solid year but there are already talks of players leaving their team and thus they may look completely different next season. GM Sayon has always been able to put together a strong playoff squad and it will be interesting to see what he will do to in the offseason. Sixers have a showdown with the Pistons and I am sure Sugee and Rahul will be looking forward to that.
Final Score: Cavaliers 48 - 53 Sixers Player of the Game - KEVIN CLERIGO 15pts/4rebs/2asts/2stls - 55.5% Shooting - 2 Triples
Written by: Kisho (Commissioner)