Dream League Playoffs await Knights, Pilots, Polars & Mustangs

In the final week of the inaugural Dream League regular season, we were given a slight preview as to what the playoffs might look like with a fight for seeding between the Pilots and the Mustangs. Neither team was at full strength, so it wasn’t a perfect replica of what is to come, but there were some high-intensity moments that I expect to carry over into next week. The night, and the regular season, came to a disappointing end as the Knights and Griffins were forced to play a four-on-four game due to the Griffins’ lack of attendance. I will focus much less on that game, as it was quite forgettable.

 

Back to the game with much more relevance. The Mustangs were playing with a chance to lock up the three seed and play the Pilots once again next week in the first round of the playoffs. On the other hand, the Pilots were playing to set up a matchup with the Polars in the first round to avoid the Mustangs.

 

Both teams wanted the win, as it would have set up a more favorable first-round matchup, but the Mustangs had to try and do it with only five players. Juemond Davis is on vacation, Bronson Byrne is still recovering from an ankle injury and Glen Fair has been MIA since mid-April. That meant that role players like Jon Goodridge and Christian Brunt had to play all 32 minutes, which eventually took a toll.

 

The lack of depth created by the three big absentees for the Mustangs showed up at both ends of the floor. On offense, it put a large burden on Michael Franklin to create a lot of his own shots. That was especially difficult when the Pilots didn’t have to worry about Goodridge as a scoring option. This made it easier for the Pilots to rotate and send help defense to guys like Franklin and Dustin Dupont. This made it near impossible for the Mustangs to score in the paint, so they were forced to shoot a lot of threes; 30 to be exact. They made 12 of those 30, which is pretty good, but it still wasn’t enough to make up for their lack of inside scoring.

 

When the Mustangs were on defense, the Pilots always had a mismatch they could exploit. When the Pilots’ starting five of Seth Jonker, Joe Drapcho, Dewan Grant, Zack Bobick and Troy Martin were on the floor, there was always a size advantage to be taken advantage of. In this scenario, Casey Ehrenberg had to guard Grant, who has a size and strength advantage. Another problem for the Mustangs was that Franklin had to guard Jonker in the post. He did a good job on most possessions, but Jonker has about a 60 pound advantage, along with a plethora of skill in the post. Sometimes, good defense isn’t enough against great offense.

 

Despite all of this, the Mustangs had a chance to comeback from a 13 point deficit to win this game. They went on an 8-0 run not too long after Dewan Grant’s shoe got obliterated. At the end of this run, Peyton Dixon was called for an intentional foul on Dupont, giving the Mustangs two made free throws and the ball. When they failed to score after the made free throws, the Pilots never looked back.

 

With two minutes left in the game, the Mustangs had the ball, down only six points, and the Pilots played perfect team defense. Troy Martin came away with a steal with only two seconds left on the shot clock, sealing a victory, and a first-round matchup with the Polars.

Onto the final game of the regular season, which I won’t give too much thought. The Griffins showed up with only four players, so the Knights matched them with four, as they knew they were going to win whether or not they put four or five guys out there.

 

The Knights had a full squad, meaning they could put out Travis Johnson, Jake Gave, Antione Lynch and Aaron Lukitsch as their starting four. That lineup might have been able to beat a five-man Griffin team.

 

The Knights started hot, so they went to their four role players midway through the first half. Before too long, the game was tied at 22 and the Knights went back to business with their death lineup. At halftime, the Knights held a 50-32 lead, something they never lost.

 

The entire second half was full of trash talk and attempts at skillful moves against a poor defensive effort. It was essentially the NBA All-Star Game, only with less talent. The best highlight would have been Kevin Story’s between the legs alley-oop pass to James Mobley, but Mobley failed to throw down the dunk. I don’t blame him, it would have been an insane dunk as the pass was a bit behind him and he is not LeBron James.

 

Other than that, nothing too memorable took place. I stopped taking notes with about 10 minutes remaining in the game, so don’t expect much from the second half to make the Things I Liked or Did Not Like list for this week.

 

Things I Liked from Week 19

 

·      When the Mustangs were able to find open threes, it came off of great ball movement. A prime example of this was when Dustin Dupont dumped the ball into Michael Franklin in the post. He swung the ball to the corner where Christian Brunt was open for three, but he made one more swing pass over to Casey Ehrenberg, who buried an open three.

·      Dewan Grant with a no-look, drop-off bounce pass in the lane to Joe Drapcho, who went up to his left and switched the ball over to his right to finish through a foul.

·      Nice help defense by Franklin to cover a lot of ground and block Drapcho right at the end of the first half.

·      Good hustle by Christian Brunt to follow his own missed corner three, corral the offensive rebound, and score off of a floater.

·      Great cut to underneath the basket by Drapcho, and an even better find by Troy Martin, who threaded the pass through the lane and between defenders.

·      Beautiful body control by James Pinkett to extend his right arm out away from Kevin Story, who fouled him, and finish through the contact.

·      Ross Winnekins going coast-to-coast and finishing with a layup where he brought the ball below a defender and back up to the basket for two. He also dribbled behind his back to get around a defender to start the break.

·      Travis Johnson getting fouled, turning away from the basket and throwing the ball over his head and into the bottom of the net.

·      The long bounce pass from Story to Josh Raue, who finished with a reverse layup.

 

Things I Did Not Like from Week 19

 

·      Dupont driving in on a one-on-four and trying to finish left-handed. He had no numbers and failed to score, wasting a possession.

·      The ball rolling out of bounds after Dupont and Brunt both tried to snag the same defensive rebound.

·      Bad foul by Brunt on Peyton Dixon when Dixon was outnumbered three to one. Brunt had the help of Dupont and a trailing Franklin, who more than likely would have blocked the attempt.

·      When Dixon was late to defend an Ehrenberg three, he lunged into Ehrenberg to give him three free throws.

·      Ehrenberg throwing away a pass when the Mustangs had a three-on-one opportunity late in the game.

·      Even later in the game, shortly after Grant’s shoe incident, Martin gave away a possession after he gave the ball right to the Mustangs. They answered on the other end with a Franklin three, starting the 8-0 run that almost propelled them back into the game.

·      The Griffins having only four players for their final game of the season.

·      Lukitsch fouling Mobley after he put up a step-back three.

·      Antione Lynch calling a timeout while he wasn’t even past half court and the Knights were about to score.

 

No players of the week this week as there was only one legitimate game, and I’m not inclined to give out all three awards to players involved in that game.

 

MVP Watch

 

1.     Travis Johnson, Knights (1): He had a near triple-double, but I don’t make much of it in a four-on-four game. With that being said, he was once again his team’s best player, as he has been all season.

2.     Seth Jonker, Pilots (3): In a game to set up a favorable matchup for his team, he proved that he was the best player on the floor. He scored 22 points, had 10 rebounds and outplayed fellow MVP-candidate Michael Franklin

3.     Jake Gave, Knights (2): I consider this more of a Jonker jump rather than a Gave fall. Jonker came up huge in a vital game, so he gets the nod.

4.     Michael Franklin, Mustangs (4): He was the best player on his team in this huge matchup, but it just wasn’t enough with their lack of depth.

5.     Bryan Munsell, Polars (5): He goes nowhere after the Polars’ season ended last week. He will now look to come up big against the Pilots in the playoffs.

 

This marks the end of the final Game Notebook of the regular season (sad face emoji). But, when a door closes, a window opens, and that window is the playoff version of the Game Notebook, coming next week. I’m stoked to get the playoffs started after this long regular season, and I hope it does not disappoint.

If you are excited as well (which if you’re reading this, then I’m sure you are) go ahead and listen to the Insider Podcast this week where Reid and I will be previewing each playoff matchup. We will also be revealing the candidates for each individual award for the season, so it should be a fun episode. I look forward to seeing many of you next week to kick off the first edition of the Dream League playoffs.  

 

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