|I am Oliver Twist.|
I am the poor boy who grows up in a workhouse devoid of food, money, or love.
Yesterday's front page news.
Each night at the dinner table, he begs, “More porridge, please.”
I am Oliver Twist.
I am the poor fan who watches every game at any gym devoid of food, money, or cheerleaders.
After last night’s game between Got Skillz and And None in a quarter-final, I beg, “More games like that, please.”
I am all twisted up.
WHAT A FREAKIN’ GAME, FOLKS!!!
It had everything. Drama. Passion. Intensity. Cajones.
And that was just the final minute.
In a Willis Reed moment, Skillz’ most valuable point-scorer, Jeff Moy – heeding his teammates’ plead to make an appearance – surprised everyone and came into Baruch Coliseum to the delight of 20 fans and 9 teammates who originally had expected him to sit it out due to a prior baille leccion he had paid for.
“I’m a basketball player first,” Moy told the press.
Fitting that he pulled a Willis Reed on the day Isiah Thomas fired Larry Brown here in New York.
And fitting he spoke to the press since that’s what his teammates went through in order to egg him on to come on out and play.
Alas, the Willis Reed act did not provide Willis-like results.
In fact, it nearly seemed that besides providing Skillz with a spark in the lay-up line and a surprise in And None’s eye as they figured they didn’t have to deal with him, Moy wasn’t there at all.
His Boston brother – Alex Inn – read the pre-game hype and took it upon his shoulders to harass the soy out of Moy once he saw that he entered the arena.
I mean, how could you NOT fire Larry Brown?
Moy: 5 points on 1/10 shooting, 5 boards, 1 assist, and 1 steal and And None took it 47-43.
Needless to say, a performance well below what we are used to seeing from Moy.
After the game, speaking at his press conference over a hot bowl of duck over noodle soup, he offered, “I tip my hat to them. Alex bottled me up. He did a great job.”
He did a great job.
He could have been talking about any number of And None players.
Inn held Moy out with stellar D, but the two leaders who have been doing it all season long for And None – Stanley Thomas and Joe Bimmerle – shredded it up offensively to help hold off a hard charging cast of Skillz players who didn’t see one guy score in double figures.
With an 18-6 And None start, the game smelled like fungi feet as Skillz looked like they were playing their 2nd game in as many nights – which of course, they were.
Then, little by little, Skillz chipped away till they took the lead for the first time at the end of the 3rd. And None got ahead in the 4th and looked poised to win it before Skillz stormed back to tie it up on a triple play by Jimmy Nguyen with 35 seconds left.
The crowd went nuts. The building shook. Tears were shed.
Then, as the shot clock started to wind down, and with 16 seconds in the game, on the next offensive possession for And None, Stanley pulled up and stuck a dagger-3 as if to say, “Got Heart?”
They are THIS big!
The crowd went nuts. The building shook. Tears were shed.
Yes, Stanley. Yes, you got heart.
His massive three (when they didn’t even need a three) immediately brought one thing to my mind: Sam Cassell’s giant cajone dance when he skips down the court holding his would be you know whats. You know the one I’m talkin’ about.
If the cajones keep on rollin’, and JB keeps on poppin’ and swallowing rebounds (15 points, 16 boards), I like my money on And None to make this run of theirs' as deep as it can go.
The best stat for Stan “I am” Thomas?
Not his 22 points or 8 steals. Or that huge 3. It was his lone turnover.
Count ‘em. One. One single turnover in a season when he averages a ton. That – and his shot heard ‘round the world – helped And None become And One more win to the Finals.
Semifinal: And None vs. Hustlers SC
Can we just call it a season and make this the Championship?
Two of the hotter teams ending the regular season have taken care of business in the first two rounds of the playoffs thus far. And None has dispatched 6 Feet Under and last night, Got Skillz in a thriller. SC has snuck by Queenz Finest and then Sky Hook, both by a mere 3 points.
What this means is that discounting the easy win against 6FU by And None, both teams are playoff tested, battle ready, and have shown an ability to win the tight ones – something not to be discounted when in the late stages of the 4th quarter of this one.
I guarantee you: Sunday’s clash between the AL’s top field goal percentage team (And None at 37.7%) and the AL’s top 3 point percentage team (SC at 30%) will be close down the wire.
I can already see the game playing itself out.
Who's bubble will pop?
The first quarter will be spent with both sides feeling each other out, establishing their ground and figuring out who’s got the hot hand.
By half, it will still be even steven as Joe Yen and Stanley Thomas will have exchanged buckets, 3’s, boards, and feeds to the likes of Vic Wu, Phivan Quach, Joe Bimmerle, and Jimmy Son.
One team will get out ahead a little in the 3rd by maybe 6-8 points, but by the 4th, with a minute to go, it’s going to be a one possession game each time down the court.
I can’t tell you what will necessarily happen at the end, but I can tell you this: in their regular season match-up, And None got by SC, 49-42. SC shot the ball well – better than And None did - but Stanley got to the line 15 times on his own as his team had a +23 differential in free throw attempts. Look for this to happen again. Stanley is a man who creates off the dribble, and SC is a team that fouls with the best. It could very well all come down to free throws – something SC struggles with (though And None is not much better – both are sub .500 at the line as a team - ouch).
And None will look to be the aggressor after a 1st period spent fumbling around, but because SC has been shooting the 3 well in the playoffs (7/23), Rich Mynt, Pak Lee, Alex Inn, and Son – along with Stanley - must defend SC’s lethal 3’s well.
Attendance may actually be an issue for SC as Yen is caught between coaching his USAB Warriors Boys’ team in the Friendship Cup Chinatown Tournament as well as playing in this game. Expect him to be there. Power forward Joon Kyung, who gives good minutes off the pine, may also be iffy. Everyone else will be game-ready and fully focused however, so SC will give as good as they’ve been giving recently.
And None will do the same.
JB didn’t have a good game that first time around against SC, so he hopes to atone for that stinker in which he shot 3/11 and barely collected his usual bevy of rebounds.
And based on that fact – because JB has been a man under the radar this whole season till now, I give the edge to And None as JB pops on the screen, pops his jumper, and pops SC’s bubble with a double double to help them get to the Finals with a 2-3 point win. Possibly in OT.
Actually, no bubble really will pop. Both teams have double E status still. Whatever the outcome, it’s possible this could be the Championship game as a rematch might be in order as the loser works their way back to the Finals the hard way.
Pop, pop. It’ll be good to the last drop.
Loser's Bracket: Queenz Finest vs. Got Skillz
The good times just won’t, can’t, and shan’t stop.
From here on out, it appears each and every single game in the playoffs will be decided by 5 points or less. That’s not so much a prediction as it is an educated guess.
If only we could move the Skillz-Queenz game to this city on Sunday, eh?
By virtue of the DL playoff rules, Queenz, after a tough loss to And None, and Skillz after a tougher loss to the same team on Thursday night, meet in the Loser’s Bracket in a loser goes home scenario.
Queenz lost in the opening round and Skillz lost in the 2nd round. But because Sky Hook, who was the #1 seed, lost in the 2nd round but had a higher seed than Skillz, it is Gerry Benedicto’s team who gets the honor of playing Finest on Sunday as Frank Liu’s squad awaits the winner.
What’s clear is that because a game story still has yet to be written about these team’s regular season match-up back on April 2nd (we swear it’s coming still), neither side will be able to read about it to review what went right and what went wrong given that it happened so long ago.
Sure, Queenz bested Skillz in overtime that day. David Nahm went off for 21 points and Jimmy Nguyen had a double double.
I can read the box score just as well as you can, but do these players remember how it happened? Do they recall in the 2nd half, due to some deficiencies in a particular area, their opponent hurt ‘em?
They say a picture says a thousand words. A box score gives a hundred stats. But in order to get the full story….well, you gotta get the story!!! Duh.
The match-up of these two Z teams – Skillz and Queenz (thankfully they are not Queenz Skillz) is sure to bring about yet another heart-stopper, particular because so much is at stake.
Junji and Hiro Nakamura will have their team ready.
If you can read, Junji didn’t play in the 1st meeting between these two, so I’d look for J-Nak to cause all sorts of headaches for Skillz with his meandering ways around the perimeter and into the lane. J-Nak is good for 15 easy points a game that you swear he didn’t score half of.
And that’s probably cause you’re thinking it was brother H-Nak who did the scoring.
Hiro is more of defensive prowler, but in order for Queenz to be successful against an angry Skillz team, he’ll have to step it up.
As of late, the Queenz guards have been a little lagging and Nahm, who had that breakout game the first go around against Skillz, has had a devil of a time with his shot.
If Charlie Chang, who has picked his game up as of late, keeps getting his turnaround fadeaway to fall and Vic Chan makes a return to action after sitting out Round 1, Queenz' O should be just fine.
Their problem may be on defense as Jeff Moy bandies about, intent on recovering after a tough outing against And None. If he’s finding the bottom of the basket with his 3, but opens that up with some drives, anyone is in for a long day.
No one may have a longer day however than Skillz' power forward Jimmy Nguyen, who may be driving in from Toronto (T Dot) just before the game.
That’s an 8-10 hour ride folks. Whatever he’s doing in the Canadian country, it’d better be good. (As in not touring the CN Tower, checking out Eaton Centre, or eating on Spadina. Okay, maybe that last one is good.)
If Nguyen is not in, and Peter Lantin is still under the weather, all the shots by Ricky Auyeung, Rey Santos, Erick Gargantiel, Ernie Ng, and Tommy Thothongkum may not matter.
Because, despite Moy’s ability, Skillz is a 10% 3-point shooting team, and Queenz can win games from the line (AL best free throw team), it says here that Got Skillz pulls it out and starts scouting Sky Hook.
Remember, I’m Oliver Twist.
I am a poor boy who grew up in a workhouse devoid of food, money, or love.
I’m hungry. I got no money. And apparently no love for Queenz.