By Craig Ellenport
With three weeks left in the BIG3’s inaugural regular season, the playoffs are starting to come into focus. The second half of the season began Sunday in Chicago, in front of a sold-out crowd at UIC Pavilion. When the smoke cleared, four teams emerged as strong playoff contenders.
One team became the first ever to clinch a playoff berth, as the undefeated Trilogy punched its ticket for the postseason, which begins Aug. 20 in Seattle. Four teams have winning records and the other four all find themselves with identical 1-4 records. All of those teams are still alive for a playoff spot, but they’ve got some work to do.
Here’s a recap of all four games:
POWER 51, BALL HOGS 34
Cuttino Mobley scored a game-high 21 points as Power improved to 4-1. The game started and finished the same way – with a 3-point shot from DeShawn Stevenson. After Stevenson opened the game with a three, Power jumped out to a 9-point lead before a 3-pointer from Ball Hogs captain Brian Scalabrine tied the game at 20. But Power took control from there. They scored the next six points to take a 26-20 lead into halftime. It was more of the same from there, as Power led by double digits most of the second half.
Stevenson’s third 3-pointer of the game clinched it. He has three game-winning shots this season – all threes. Stevenson finished with 11 points, as did Jerome Williams, who also pulled down 8 boards. Paul McPherson and Kendall Gill scored 4 apiece. Rasual Butler has 12 points and Derrick Byars had 9 for the Ball Hogs, who fell to 1-4.
TRILOGY 51, TRI-STATE 34
Rashad McCants had another big day, pouring in a Week 5-best 27 points. McCants scored seven of Trilogy’s first nine points as they jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but Tri-State came to play – going on an 11-2 run to grab the lead. That’s when Trilogy captain Kenyon Martin – playing in his first game since suffering an injury in Week 1 – hit a jumper to take back a lead they never relinquished. Trilogy went up by eight at halftime, 26-18.
Down by 14 in the second half, Tri-State did have one more push left. Mike James, who finished with 22 points and 7 rebounds, scored eight in a row during a 10-2 Tri-State run that closed the gap to 36-30. But the BIG3’s only undefeated team took over from there, closing the game on a 15-4 run that ended with a dunk from James White, who poured in 16. K-Mart finished with 4 points in his triumphant return to BIG3 action, as did co-captain Al Harrington. Trilogy is 5-0; Tri-State is 1-4.
3-HEADED MONSTERS 51, 3’S COMPANY 32
What began as the tightest game of the day turned into a one-sided affair for the 3-Headed Monsters in the second half. They led for much of the first half, though it remained close and the game was tied up five times. A Rashard Lewis layup game the Monsters a 25-22 lead going into halftime. The second half started out evenly, but just until it was 34-28. The 3-Headed Monsters then went on a 10-0 run to go up by 14. After a David Hawkins jumper for 3’s Company made it 42-30, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf scored his team’s final 9 points to close it out.
Abdul-Rauf led the 3-Headed Monsters with 19 points, adding 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Lewis, the BIG3’s leading scorer, finished with 16 points, 9 boards and 6 assists. Kwame Brown had his second double-double of the season (11 points, 12 boards). Andre Owens led 3’s Company with 13 points, while Mike Sweetney added 8 points and a team-best 9 boards. The 3-Headed Monsters are 4-1; 3’s Company is 1-4.
GHOST BALLERS 50, KILLER 3S 46
The final game of the day looked like it might be a laugher, then it became a nail-biter. There were five lead changes early, but the Killer 3s went on an 18-4 run before going into halftime with a 26-16 advantage. They maintained that 10-point lead through the start of the second half, and the lead seemed insurmountable at 40-30. That’s when the Ghost Ballers went on a 9-2 run to make it a game again. Stephen Jackson, who had a game-high 22 points for the Killer 3s, hit a 2-point free throw to make it 44-39, and then Ghost Ballers captain Mike Bibby hit the day’s one and only 4-point shot to bring his squad to within one.
The Killer 3s’ Reggie Evans, who had a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds), made a layup to make it 46-43, then the Ghost Ballers scored the last seven points of the game to take the win. Ghost Ballers co-captain Ricky Davis, who finished with 15 points, scored the game-winner. Ivan Johnson led the Ghost Ballers with 20 points, adding 6 rebounds. Bibby scored 15, with a team-best 8 boards and league-best 7 assists. The Ghost Ballers improved to 3-2; the Killer 3s are 1-4.
Week 6 of the BIG3 tips off Sunday at the American Airlines center in Dallas.