2006_ Winter/Spring AL (NYC)
It's a Got Skillz Kind of Week
I ain’t one to tell you I told you so, but….I told you so.
The end of the road arrived for Sky Hook last night as they dropped a 53-45 second elimination game to Got Skillz at around the same time the Blazers were getting cash for sending a guy named Bobby Jones to Philadelphia.
Bobby Jones, Philly Sixer.
Bobby Jones? The Sixers? Again?
BJ was one of the greatest defenders and 6th men ever to play the game when he suited up alongside the Doc, Andrew Toney, and Mo’ Cheeks back in the day. Could this be….his son?
Not quite. Take a look at the two guys and you’ll realize unless adoption was involved, it’s a case of same name, different guys.
But back to the story at hand…I told you so.
I told you so. I told you that Sky Hook was a team running on smoke and mirrors. A 10-0 start that should have been more like 6-4.
I told you so. I told you that after unimpressively beating The Tribe in round 1, then losing to SC, that Hook was treading on thin water.
I told you so. I told you that Got Skillz, despite using up a loss to And None, still has what it takes to get to the Championship Round.
On the strength of a strong 1st quarter, Skillz set the tone early and often in the 1st half. The proud Hookers came back to tie it at one point in the 3rd, but then Ricky Auyeung showed why he has to be considered in any and all discussions of who are the AL’s grittest and guttiest guards.
Bobby Jones, Philly Sixer.
When Hook caught up to Skillz at 23, it’s as if Auyeung (the “young” is not lost on being better than an “old” Sky Hook) wanted to honor the most honored number ever in basketball and took the game over as Sir MJ would have himself.
At the 6:26 mark of the 3rd, RA found his main man Jeff Moy in the corner for 3 and then proceeded to dump all over Hook for the rest of the quarter like Mike did to the Cavs. Or the Knicks. Or the Celts. Or the…you get the picture.
He scored 10 straight Skill points – including a pair of triples – and for all intents and purposes, this ball game was over.
There was still a whole quarter to be played, but Skillz kept Hook at arm’s distance the rest of the way and all that was left was for the guys was to go home, catch Will Blaylock as the last pick of the entire draft by Detroit, and go to bed dreaming about being one win away from the Finals.
For Sky Hook – the theme of the night could be called waste.
Getting eliminated well short of their ultimate goal after a pristine start was a waste of a season.
Getting a season high effort from Vince Chai (double double) and a 12 point, 7 board, 4 dime game from Steve Tam was a waste.
And Walter Ho, man who hasn’t missed a draft in New York since it moved over from Vancouver, missed it last night to come out and help lead his team.
Auyeung throws it back like MJ.
Semifinal: Got Skillz vs. SC
Tonight is Game #17 on the season for Got Skillz. It’s also their fifth game in eight days.
First of all, if this season hasn’t been well worth their money (where else can you get this many games for such a good rate?), then I’m afraid nothing on Earth would please them.
The first question is, has this demanding schedule that has taken them from midtown to the Upper East Side to Brooklyn and back to midtown worn them out?
If a 3-1 record and the right to play in tonight’s Semifinal game coming out of the loser’s bracket is any indication, I dare say no.
No, road travel can get weary for sure, but there’s nothing like improving your game by playing the game.
If you’re Got Skillz, you’ve been playing the game so frequently recently, it would make sense then that you’re find your groove and hitting a stride.
Hey, you don’t think Michelle Kwan got to be World Champ by ice-skating once a week, did you?
To be the best, you have to act like the best, and though Skillz is one loss away from elimination, after spending more time with basketball on their minds in the last week than thinking about what to eat, what to wear, and what to do with their downtime, Skillz is gellin’ and just one win from getting their chance at glory.
Tonight, they square off against a suddenly shaky Hustlers SC team for the 3rd time this season.
I didn't get here overnight honey!
In game 2 this season, Skillz kaboshed SC by 20 – 63-43. In game 9, they won by 17. And now in game 17, what can we expect?
In those two games, Skillz got big games from several sources both times. Jimmy Nguyen averaged a steady 11 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two. Alex Wong was out for both games for SC and Joe Yen went from scoring 30 in one to 6 the next (a game in which SC spent more time fighting each other than they did Skillz.)
Jeff Moy had a Yen-like drop off from 1 to 2 as he went from 20 to 6. Tommy Thothongkum popped off in 1, Ricky Auyeung took his turn in 2.
Other than Nguyen and Wong’s steady contribution and absence – oh, and the large margin of victories – it was pretty much a mixed bag from one game to the next.
In both losses, SC shot in the 20th percentile and without Wong – who has a steady 3, but an even steadier habit of missing games, SC had no shot. And that’s not just literally speaking.
The Hustlers put together a nice run in the back half of the season and played great in two early round playoff games. But if basketball is about throwback – as in throwback jerseys, a throwback player, or throw a back out (Jonathan Guilfoile anyone?), now is a time of throwback to the 1st half of the season for SC – and that’s not good.
Yen arrived late on Sunday in SC’s defeat to And None. When Yen’s head is not in the game and he’s spending too much time either a) in traffic, b) yapping at the referees, or c) yapping at his teammates unproductively, it’s a bad scene. He is the leader of the team and he must lead with conviction, by example, and with a 30 point, 15 rebound game again if SC is to have a shot – and this time I mean figuratively.
If Yen doesn’t come with a vengeance tonight, things don’t look good. Jeff Lee – a 3-point threat – hurt his arm lifting a weight this week. Wong is confirmed out again. And now news that George Shum may have left the team over a dispute with management and philosophy has shook the foundation if not the unity.
If you can’t read between the lines with all of the above analysis, read this: Got Skillz wins this one. Convincingly.
Got Skillz vs. Sky Hook
Hook needs to find this tonight.
If not touching a basketball for about two weeks is supposed to help your game, for Frank Liu and the rest of Sky Hook, tonight is going to demonstrate how sharp they are after coming off a 3-point loss to And None in the second round of the playoffs back on June 15th that dropped them to the loser’s bracket.
Liu voiced the team’s opinion when he stated that his team was old and that the fewer games they played, the better for them for fear of shortness of breath, muscle spasms, and perhaps brain cramps catching up to them.
You got your wish Frankie. Two weeks rest ought to be good enough to have recovered from the last one.
It ought to be.
No way they can outdo their 22% shooting, their 3/19 from 3, and their 17 turnovers in their last outing.
After losing to Got Skillz 51-45 just before Memorial Day, Skillz has shown their age as their point production has plummeted as fast as Paris Hilton’s first single surely will.
That’s not the size of a woman (heavens, no), but rather the totals they have put up in their last 3 outings including 2 playoff games.
Liu was serious about his team needing the rest. He got it. Now go on out and break that 40 point barrier!
In order to do that tonight against a Skillz team fresh off of a playoff ousting of Queenz Finest, Hook will have to throw it back in rewind and play like they did at the top of the season when they burst out of the gates 6-0.
They started out 10-0, but at 6-0, their average margin of victories was 12.6 and their next 4 were by 5.5, followed by 2 losses to finish 10-2. So, downwards spiraling, they were.
Maybe the rest will have helped them. And given that tonight is the NBA Draft right here in the Big Apple, they will draw from the young spirit with fresh legs and large lungs and be able to get it together.
Walter Ho, an annual draft attendee, must be there though leading the way. He’s been the one constant bright spot in their slump and he’ll have to remain a one constant bright spot if they want to finish what they started this season (setting off to win a chip).
Hook needs to be these kids tonight, not see them (ahem, Walter.)
Steve Tam and Dom DeGuzman will have to do their parts, choosing smart shots, and raising their level on defense to heights they’ve never gone to before this season.
It’s not just Tall, Dark, and Handsome who must do this, but their whole team.
Mike Choi, Vince Chai, Conan Soohoo and even Liu will have to play with a vigor and a passion that they haven’t shown since hitting the dance floor 5 years back when they could regularly be found on the Asian party circuit of New York aggressively playing the field.
They will need every last ounce of energy to best a Skillz team, that at this juncture, is playing better basketball.
Jeff Moy won’t have to worry about any Thursday night obligations, and should be expected to turn in another All-Star worthy effort. Peter Lantin is still a question mark, but Jimmy Nguyen has most likely made his way back from Toronto and will be present to hit the glass, pound the floor, and offer some scores.
The frontcourt is not the area in which Skillz needs to worry.
Why they have been playing well, despite a close loss to And None, is because their backcourt has been off the charts.
Erick Gargantiel, Rey Santos, Tommy Thothongkum, Ricky Auyeung, and Jeph Dais (not to mention Dr. E) have been playing either above their heads or up to their potential. Whatever it is, they need to keep it going.
We’re seeing shots (TT Boy’s around the back and 1 on Sunday), defense, and intensity from them we haven’t seen all season.
For Gerry B. and the boyz, the timing couldn’t be better.
Sky Hook may find their fountain of youth tonight, but because Skillz is already standing in the well, Got Skillz lays the elderly to rest.
We’d been getting some pretty good games as of late. As I screamed in my last posting, we had everything from drama to cajones in our Thursday game that pitted Got Skillz against And None.
Five of our six AL Playoff games up until Thursday were decided by 11 points or less with three of those five decided by 4 or less.
What that meant was that, due to the law of averages, we were in for some not so close games eventually.
Screw the law of averages!
Damn that law.
Laws were meant to be broken and we want to see this one smashed!
After losing to And None, Got Skillz took on Queenz Finest on Sunday in a loser’s bracket challenge and were it not for a dismal 4th quarter in which Queenz put up a whopping 5 points to Skillz 17, we woulda had our second classic in as many days.
Of course, the 4th is when it counts and so what was a 43-42 game, ended a 60-47 Skillz run away, eliminating Queenz from the post-season.
Darn, it was such a good game too.
Whatever happened from the 3rd to the 4th for Queenz, they’d better sort that mess out. It was as if they went from being Clay Aiken to William Hung in the time it takes Simon to crush a hopeful music star’s dreams.
They simply picked a real bad time to put up a 2/8 quarter in which the only field goals were made by Dean Chiu, their team’s 7th leading scorer.
Skillz got another stellar effort from Jeff Moy (who wasn’t messin’ with tryin’ to make the front page again) and the trio of Ricky Auyeung, Erick Gargantiel, and Tommy Thothongkum combined for 30 points to show us why that backcourt is like a keg full of powder. They’re liable to explode at any time and they did it early, often, and late on Queenz.
Queenz was Hung in the 4th.
Skillz gets Sky Hook next and its pretty appropriate the that Eastern Conference’s top two teams get to settle it once and for all to see who really is the best in a do or die situation.
Skillz was 9-3 and Hook 10-2 in the regular season and the difference between the two teams is minimal at best. On Wednesday, we’ll see which one gets the right to move onto the semifinals to face Hustlers SC.
Wasn’t SC just in the semis?
Yep. And now, thanks to a 58-41 beat down at the hands of And None, SC drops to the loser’s bracket side and plays the winner of Skillz-Hook to try and get back into the championship round.
Sunday’s first semifinal was about as exciting as watching paint dry.
There are teams that deserve to win and there are teams that deserve to lose.
Our Prince is better than theirs'.
And None deserved this win based on merit alone. They easily have the talent to go all the way, but in a match-up of two of the hottest teams in the AL, this one simply went to the team who came correct.
And when I say came correct, I mean, came at all.
Tip-off neared and SC had the requisite 5 men, but their top two scorers were nowhere to be found. Neither was a key member of their bench.
Joe Yen was stuck in traffic, Alex Wong was in North Dakota (though not by his choice or of any fault of his), and Joon Kyung was elsewhere on a day where basketball took a second seat to life.
Without 25 points in their line up and two powerful 3-point weapons, it’s a miracle SC managed to stay close for one half.
Yen did arrived mid-way through the 2nd, but after entering the game with no warm-up or mental prepping, he tossed up an airball and you knew that was the kind of day it’d be for SC.
Eventually, the lack of warm-up, thoughtful planning, bodies, points, and execution caught up to SC and And None wore them down to advance to Championship Night on Thursday July 6th.
Stanley Thomas and Joe Bimmerle did their usual thing and picked apart SC inside/out, but the real hero of this day was Stanley’s older brother Prince who has been out of the limelight for awhile.
Winner takes it all.
PT got another All-Star nom this season, but ever since lil’ bro arrived on the team, it’s pretty much been the Stanley Show.
Prince got back to his roots and punished people with a 20 point, 8 rebound, 2 block effort. He missed only 2 shots (9/11) as he found the pickin’s easy on rebound put-backs and easy posts that SC – without Yen for awhile and Kyung – could not defend inside.
It was this kind of extra effort that left captain Jimmy Son – who will miss out on the Championship Round next week – at ease knowing that he had pieced together the perfect team and readied these guys to get after it in their attempt to win the first ever New York DLAL title.
Whoever they wind up playing – be it Sky Hook, Got Skillz, or SC again – they will have to lose twice in order to not be called champs.
The way in which they are performing right now, the printers, who will be producing a Championship Season yearbook in the vein of those Sports Illustrated ones you see after every major event, ought to start picking out the And None stories, pictures, and patterns they’re going to use.
May as well get to work early.