The second week of the Dream League Playoffs ended up playing out about the same as the first week. The Knights and the Pilots, the juggernauts of the regular season, have continued their dominance right into the playoffs by sweeping both of the semi-final series’. This now sets up a matchup that has seemed inevitable from the first week of the Dream League; well, at least according to the Pilots.
That prediction has now come true, and the team that made the statement was the first to clinch a spot in the finals. They eliminated the Polars from the playoffs with a 73-66 victory, once again demonstrating their superiority in this matchup.
The Polars had to play this game without Rob Steib or Michael Thomas, which severely hurt their chances of winning right from the start. Without Thomas, Jonny Ball was the only big-man the Polars had, which meant he had to guard Seth Jonker. That played in Jonker’s favor as he exploited Ball’s lack of low-post defense. This forced Ben Juhlke, who is listed as 6’1, to guard Jonker, and that didn’t seem to bother Jonker at all. He scored heavily in the low-post and at the free-throw line, where he hit five of the seven he shot.
The serious lack of size was a huge factor in this game, and it plagued the Polars defensively. They have played zone defense against the Pilots on multiple occasions this season with different results. They played a 3-2 last week that seemed to work pretty well. That led me to believe that they would once again go to a zone to try and disrupt the Pilots and force them into more outside shots. They never switched up their scheme and the Pilots enjoyed the easy access to the paint.
The Polars’ lack of defense is reflected by the shooting percentage of the Pilots. They shot 29-58, 50 percent, from the field, which is impressive. It’s indicative of the Pilots’ efficiency, and when that is paired with size advantages in multiple matchups on the floor, it leads to victories.
The Pilots clearly own the Polars and now they’ve proven it. If the Polars were going to win this series, it was going to take monster games from Ball or Bryan Munsell. Those have been the guys the Polars have relied on to score consistently and get them wins. They combined to score 40 points in this series, which was not enough to give the Polars a chance. They now shift to the offseason, where a new general manager will be at the helm after Sonny Young-Graves resigned after Monday’s loss. As for the Pilots, they are sitting pretty and on their way to the Dream League Finals.
Joining the Pilots in the finals are the Knights, who eliminated the Mustangs in a game that was a tale of two halves. The Mustangs looked determined to force a game 3, despite playing without Dustin Dupont and Glen Fair, while the Knights seemed to play with the attitude of “I don’t have any plans Tuesday night, sure, let’s play another game.”
The Mustangs’ five point lead at halftime was vanquished when the Knights completely reverted back to the dominant force of a team we’ve seen play all of this season. During halftime, Knights’ GM Ahmed Helmy delivered an inspiring speech to his players that was riddled with language I won’t repeat in this article. That gave them the boost they needed and they ended up with a comfortable 73-59 win.
It is often stated that rebounding is a stat that correlates with success. The team that wins the rebounding battle typically wins the game. That could not have been truer in this game as the Knights were plus 10 on the boards, and they also added 19 offensive rebounds. The Mustangs had 13 offensive rebounds, which is a lot, but it seemed like the Knights were better at converting on their second chances. The Knights were able to take over the second half due to their extreme effort towards rebounding. Travis Johnson looked like a man possessed after every missed shot; he simply wanted the ball more than anyone. Jake Gave and Dexter Watson made it a habit too, as they each came away with 4 offensive rebounds apiece.
That kind of effort is contagious, and the Knights worked as a team to make sure they had more possessions. On the other end, the Mustangs (specifically Michael Franklin and Christian Brunt) routinely argued with each other as the game wore on and it had a negative effect on the entire team. Their body language was telling, as it showed signs of fatigue and disgust. They looked like a defeated team as the game wore on.
It is also no coincidence that the two teams that played at full-strength beat the teams playing with six men. Depth is important in the playoffs, and the two best teams have also been the two teams that have had all eight guys show up the most frequently.
Things I Liked from Game 2 of the Semi-Finals
• James Carr providing help defense on Seth Jonker and stealing the ball away from him right after he received an entry pass. He went on to get an uncontested layup out of it.
• Joe Drapcho draining a three after Jonker opened up space with a screen on Jonny Ball. Juhlke switched onto Drapcho and that gave Drapcho just enough space to get off the jumper.
• Carr spinning around Peyton Dixon on his way to the basket and finishing with perfect touch around the rim.
• Bryan Munsell stealing the ball from Jonker in the post, exactly like Carr did, and burying a pull-up three in transition.
• Dixon dribbling right by Trey Woodhouse and then heaving a floater over Juhlke that banked in.
• Alan Arlt cutting through the lane and finishing through contact for an and-one opportunity. Good feed from Zack Bobick to set it up.
• Michael Franklin handing off the ball to Juemond Davis and screening Jake Gave in the process to open up a three for Davis.
• Smart foul by Gave on Christian Brunt to deny him a layup. Brunt was on a fast break with Gave trailing him, so he put up a shot fake and got Gave to jump. As Gave was coming down, he grabbed Brunt before he could put up a shot, denying him free throws.
• Good transition defense by Dexter Watson to hustle and steal the ball away from Davis, who had an open path to the basket.
• Travis Johnson drawing in three defenders to the paint and then kicking the ball out to Tony DeBoer for a corner three.
• Bronson Byrne blocking Antione Lynch from behind after Lynch grabbed an offensive rebound.
Things I Did Not Like from Game 2 of the Semi-Finals
• Dewan Grant trying to throw a long outlet pass to Jonker that ended up traveling over Jonker’s outstretched arms and falling out of bounds.
• On the very next possession Carr threw a pass behind Juhlke and gave the ball right back to the Pilots.
• Troy Martin being left all alone in the lane after a Jonker missed shot. Nobody on the Polars attempted to box him out, despite having three guys in the lane near Martin.
• Dewan Grant throwing up a desperation shot while falling out of bounds. Bobick saved the ball and threw it over to Grant who shot it even though there were 16 seconds left on the shot clock.
• Zack Bobick shooting from underneath the basket and getting rejected by the rim.
• Jon Goodridge standing open at the top of the key and holding the ball as the shot clock ran out.
• The Mustangs leaving Antione Lynch wide open for three off of an inbound play.
• The refs calling a charge on Bronson Byrne after Lynch dramatically fell to the floor after Byrne initiated contact.
• Christian Brunt trying to tip the ball ahead to Davis instead of controlling it first. He tipped it too far and a guaranteed two points were thrown away.
• 10 of Franklin’s 13 shots were three pointers. I don’t mind him shooting threes, but his lack of aggressiveness was troubling.
Offensive Player of the Week
Jake Gave, Knights: Gave put on another great performance on Monday night, which is something that we are very used to seeing by now. He finished with 25 points on 50 percent shooting and he gave the Knights four extra possessions due to his tenacity on the offensive glass. He didn’t lose them many possessions either as he only had one turnover. His performance all added up to a week-high PPR of 19.2
Defensive Player of the Week
Joe Drapcho, Pilots: The first time Jon Christenson hasn’t won this award after a game with the Polars, and that’s because Drapcho completely shut down Jonny Ball. Drapcho could stay with him on the perimeter and not allow him good positioning in the post. Ball only scored 6 points on 2-8 shooting and he committed 6 turnovers. A lot of that poor performance is due to Drapcho’s defense.
Role Player of the Week
Dexter Watson, Knights: Watson had 4 rebounds this week, and all 4 were offensive rebounds. He was tenacious on the glass and on the defensive end of the floor. He didn’t need to add any scoring as his hustle was positive enough, but he did score 4 points as well without taking a bunch of shots.
That wraps up the semi-finals. The Mustangs and Polars can now watch the finals like everyone else when they kick off on July 11. Keep heading to uhlife.com to keep up with everything Dream League, where we will be providing some additional content to preview the finals. Have a fun and safe 4th of July.
Watch Replay of Game 2 Pilots vs Polars
Watch Replay of Game 2 Knights vs Mustangs
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