2023 BIG3 Championship Recap
By BIG3 August 27, 2023
After an absolutely thrilling 10-week season, the BIG3’s Summer of Fire came to an end on Saturday at the legendary O2 arena in London. The Championship matchup between the Enemies and the Triplets was a fitting end to such a wonderful stretch of basketball – read on to find out how it went down.
The game started out somewhat slowly. Neither team was able to find much momentum offensively, and many of the early baskets came from teams grinding down low or creating a good opportunity off a rebound. The Triplets’ early game-plan seemed to be to look for favorable switches and ISO up Joe Johnson on a smaller defender, but the Enemies did a great job making them work for those switches. As a result, the Triplets had a hard time finding early offense, and often found themselves working with a short clock.
Isaiah Austin was an absolute monster on defense all night. He didn’t just patrol the paint; he hopped out on the perimeter and cross-matched with ease, allowing the Enemies to contest every jumper while staying responsible in the paint. Elijah Stewart didn’t have a particularly great shooting night, but he brought a ton of energy and was particularly willing to crash the boards, as he finished with a game-high four offensive rebounds.
The game really got going near the end of the first half, when Jeremy Pargo hit one of his signature four-point shots to put the Triplets up 19-16 and Jordan Crawford immediately tied the game with a pull-up three. The half ended when Crawford hit a runner to give the Enemies a 25-23 lead.
Larry Sanders had some nice moments in the first half, but both Jordan Crawford and Elijah Stewart were able to get layups on him when he switched onto them using lefty hezi dribbles – not long after Stewart got his layup, Lisa Leslie pulled Sanders, and Jamario Moon was the de facto center for the Triplets for the majority of the second half.
At one point early in the second, the Enemies threatened to run away with the game. Crawford capped off an Enemies run with an absolutely insane basket – with Jamario Moon guarding him up top, Crawford went left, used a behind-the-back dribble to go right, flowed into a snatch-back dribble to get back to his left, threw his head up to freeze Moon with a shot-fake while keeping his dribble, then used an inside-out pound dribble with his left to give himself space for the pull-up from the left elbow. When the ball went through, the score was 36-27 in favor of the Enemies, and the finish line seemed to be in sight.
To their credit, the Triplets never went away. They clawed their way back into the game on the back of BIG3 GOAT Joe Johnson, who got himself into the paint time after time after time. He finally was able to find mismatches on smaller defenders early in the shot clock, and used his size to put pressure on the rim both with and without the ball. When the Enemies did double him on post-ups, he would kick it out to Moon, who hit two three-pointers in the second half. With the score 38-37, Johnson bullied Stewart on a post-up and laid it in to give Triplets a 39-38 lead, their first lead of the half.
That could have broken the will of a less confident team, but the Enemies did what they did all season and made big jumpers at key times. Stewart answered the Triplets’ run with a clutch catch-and-shoot three to make the score 45-43.
One of the key moments of the game happened on the next possession. Joe Johnson was able to get position in the paint, just like he had all half, and drew a foul. That meant he had a free throw to tie the game at 45, and with the Triplets in the bonus, they would have gotten possession of the ball with a chance to take the lead. Nick Young chose not to use his Bring the Fire challenge. This turned out to be a genius move, because Johnson somehow missed the free throw.
Not long after that, Stewart rose up over Iso-Joe on a drive and was able to get the finish to give the Enemies a 47-43 lead. In what was perhaps a desperate move, Jeremy Pargo looked to tie the game with a four-pointer. It caromed hard off the back rim into Jordan Crawford’s hands. Crawford sprinted back to the three-point line, set his feet, adjusted his grip, and got the shot off over the outstretched arm of Jamario Moon, who had sprinted towards Crawford. The shot rattled home, and the sixth season of the BIG3 ended with the Enemies as your new champions.
The Summer of Fire is over. Now the Year of Enemies begins, and will continue until next summer. The BIG3 will be back, and it will be better than ever. For now, the Enemies will celebrate their first-ever title. Soon, the work to defend that title will begin. Thank you so much for watching this season, and we look forward to seeing you again next summer.