2023 Week 1 BIG3 Recaps
By BIG3 June 26, 2023
Featured image by Chapman Baehler
What a way to start off the Summer of Fire. Here’s what went down in Week 1:
TRILOGY VS. ENEMIES:
In 2022 Isaiah Briscoe established himself as one of the best players in the BIG3 due to his ability to get to the paint and finish inside. However, he was occasionally inconsistent with his outside shot. It looks like he was in the lab this off-season, because he started off the 2023 with an absolutely dazzling display of outside shooting.
He started the game off with two threes in a row and never slowed down, finishing with 21 points on 5-6 shooting from beyond the arc. Earl Clark was, as always, a threat from everywhere, and finished with a game-high 25 points.
Trilogy is still a big, physical team. Whenever the Enemies were able to get close thanks to some perimeter shot-making, Trilogy would just bully their way inside and get a look. They missed some layups they’d normally make, which was another reason the game stayed close. Even still, they were consistently able to get themselves to the line, and you could tell it was frustrating the Enemies, who seemed to be working harder for their buckets.
Unfortunately for Gilbert Arenas’ team, that frustration boiled over down the stretch. With the score tied on 36, Isaiah Austin gave up a cheap foul on an Earl Clark jumper. Quincy Miller immediately fired the ball off the backboard in frustration, and was hit with a tech.
In FIREBALL3, a technical foul leads to a 2-point free throw. If the team gets another tech, their opponent gets two 2-point free throws. That’s why things went from bad to worse for the Enemies when Isaiah Austin picked up a tech of his own for arguing with the referee after Miller’s technical foul. Clark now had four free throws worth a possible eight points. He only made two of them, but it was still a four-point possession at a critical juncture. Yet another three from Briscoe on Trilogy’s next trip down made it 43-38, and Enemies were never really in it after that.
The game-winner came on a wide-open three from Earl Clark, and Trilogy started its title defense off with a 52-46 victory over an Enemies team that easily could have gotten the W had they been able to keep their composure.
With the score 32-31 Trilogy, Enemies Coach Gilbert Arenas challenged a foul by Isaiah Austin on Amir Johnson. Johnson lost the ball out of bounds, NO BASKET.
Immediately thereafter, Trilogy Coach Stephen Jackson challenged a foul by Earl Clark on Elijah Stewart. Clark bottled up Stewart, forcing him to pick up his dribble, staying with him through pump-fakes, and forcing him to miss an off-balance jumper. NO BASKET.
Triplets vs. Bivouac:
Iso-Joe and Gerald Green both put up numbers for their respective squads. However, neither Triplets nor Bivouac were really flowing offensively. The returning Johnson is as tenacious as ever, and can still get buckets from anywhere on the floor. Unfortunately, his three-point shot wasn’t really there for him on Sunday, and he wasn’t quite able to get to his spots inside of the arc.
Bivouac did a great job making Johnson work, which is all you can really do against a player of his caliber – Johnson finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds, but shot 11-31 from the field, 3-13 on shots outside the arc, and had one assist against four turnovers. Compounding the issue for Lisa Leslie’s squad was that the supporting cast didn’t fare much better. Outside of Johnson, Triplets shot just 8-26 from the field and missed all 9 of its three-point attempts. The team seemed to be making a concerted effort to get new addition Larry Sanders involved on offense early, but he didn’t look that comfortable creating for himself in post-up situations.
Things went a bit more smoothly for Bivouac, but not by much. Gerald Green is the BIG3’s biggest fan of “transition play” – when Bivouac grabs a defensive board, he darts straight to the three-point line and tries to get a three off before the defense can get set. It’s a nice idea in principle, since it’s hard to get man advantages in a half-court only format and Green is one of the league’s best shooters. When it doesn’t work, though, it can really stagnate an offense. Green finished just 6-20 from the field, and 3-13 from beyond the arc. (He went 3-9 on threes and missed all four of his four-point attempts.)
Bivouac found something offensively in the second half. Coach Gary Payton started the second half with Garlon Green in the place of big man Jeff Ayres. His shotmaking and the extra space he provided were huge for Bivouac, who put the finishing touches on a 51-47 win when Jeremy Pargo missed the rim on a step-back three and Corey Brewer scooped it home for the win.
Power vs. 3HM
This was a fantastic showcase for Power. They scraped by 3HM to make the 2022 BIG3 Championship, and they looked even better on Sunday than they did in that game. Nancy Lieberman has clearly defined roles for all five of her players, and the team moves the ball so wonderfully – truly unselfish basketball in both the micro and the macro sense.
Cuttino Mobley looks healthier than he did last season, and he knocked in a couple of big shots from the perimeter. Royce White and TJ Cline are one of my absolute favorite duos in the league – White is a gifted passer who never stops looking to move the ball, and Cline never, ever stops moving. As soon as Cline’s constant movement gets him a sliver of space, White is ready to reward him with the pass. New addition Akil Mitchell fit right in, putting constant pressure on the rim and making all six of his field goal attempts. The team in general just doesn’t settle for jumpers, and will always make the extra pass or make a determined drive if the opportunity presents itself.
For their part, the 3 Headed Monsters had to re-integrate Reggie Evans, one of the most dominant forces in league history who missed all of 2022 with an injury. Evans’ game is a bit awkward at the best of times, but in the first half he struggled to convert his shots, the ball stuck a bit as 3HM force-fed him, and he looked just a step slow on defense; at one point, he was late to rotate to Akil Mitchell on a pick-and-roll and ended up whacking him in the head for a flagrant foul.
In the second half, Evans seemed to find his footing a bit, and his physicality started to really frustrate Power. He really does have a knack for making the game his own on both sides of the ball, and he finished with an impressive line of 14 points and 13 rebounds, including a whopping eight offensive rebounds.
2022 Rookie of the Year Glen Rice Jr., Power’s primary scorer, struggled with his shot a bit. The good news was that his playmaking seems to have taken a step forward, as he finished with a game-high five assists, and one of the shots he made was an absolute doozy. With Power leading 33-24, Rice Jr. took a four-point shot and made it while getting fouled by Robert Dozier. He made the free-throw for the five-point play. It was the only four-point shot anyone made on Sunday, and it was one of the only five-point plays in league history – there weren’t any last season. It was 38-24 Power after that, and while 3HM made a nice run to make the final score respectable, this was Power’s day from the opening tip. The difference in ball movement really was shocking, as Power finished with 13 assists against just 2 from 3HM.
The game-winner had some intrigue to it. Glen Rice Jr. got the ball at the top 4-point circle and waived off a ball-screen so he could go ISO against reigning MVP Kevin Murphy. Rice went right, got the step, and scooped in a layup. He even got fouled for what would have been a potential and-1, but the score was already 50-43 Power after the ball went in.
With the score 44-33 Power, Reggie Thues challenged a foul by Reggie Evans on Akil Mitchell. Mitchell was unable to get anywhere on Evans, but Evans committed a bail-out foul as Mitchell was dribbling with his back to the basket. BASKET GOOD.
With the score 46-33 Power, Nancy Lieberman challenged a foul by Glen Rice Jr. on Reggie Evans. She thought Mitchell had committed the foul, and got a technical for arguing with the official about it. Ultimately, the foul stayed on Rice, and Evans was able to get him under the basket and convert the layup. BASKET GOOD.
Aliens vs. Ball Hogs:
It just might be the Ball Hogs’ year. They absolutely could not have looked better against Aliens. A big part of that was their white-hot outside shooting. Jodie Meeks couldn’t miss, as he had a game-high 23 points on 9-14 outside shooting and 5-8 shooting from three. Overall, the team made 10 of its 16 threes, and basketball can be a pretty easy game when you shoot like that.
Even if the Ball Hogs hadn’t been shooting the lights out, this still would have been a tremendous performance. New center Jeff Ayres didn’t see much of the floor, with Rick Barry preferring smaller lineups consisting of Leandro Barbosa, Jodie Meeks, and either Jaylen Johnson or DaJuan Summers.
The Ball Hogs put on a masterclass at using speed to put pressure on the rim. Barbosa is, as ever, an absolute blur with the ball in his hands. When the defense got caught paying attention to him, Meeks would punish them by moving to an open spot beyond the arc and drilling a three or cutting hard to the basket for a layup. If they overplayed Meeks, Barbosa would simply go all the way to the rim. When Meeks had the ball, Barbosa was in motion, and hit some spot-up threes of his own for good measure. If the Aliens managed to keep up with both Meeks and Barbosa for a few seconds through frantic rotations, Johnson or Summers would find themselves wide open.
They created space with their shooting and sliced through it using their speed and activity. At the end of the day, they were just too fast for Aliens. 14 of their 20 baskets came off of assists, and they came away with a double-digit victory even though they didn’t hit a single free throw. It doesn’t get prettier than that.
On the Aliens’ side of things, the de facto swap of DeShawn Stephens for Janis Timma may have made them too perimeter-oriented. Timma is a heck of a shooter, but he’s an inveterate gunner who shoots every time he touches it from outside. The Aliens do have a big man in Tomislav Ivosev, but he wasn’t able to punish the undersized Ball Hogs when he got it on offense. Dusan Bulut made some nice shots inside the arc, but it didn’t seem like there were any easy baskets for Aliens.
This game really showed that being undersized and getting a ton of points from three doesn’t mean you’re settling for shots. 30 of Ball Hogs’ 50 points came from deep and they were the smaller team, but all of their shots were set up by the pressure their speed, man movement, and ball movement put on the rim – the threes they took were open, and they were open because Aliens were forced to give them those threes instead of allowing a wide-open layup. This was an absolutely stellar FIREBALL3 performance from Ball Hogs, who won the game by a final score of 50-39 when Jodie Meeks hit a pull-up with his feet on the 3-point line against Janis Timma.
Ghost Ballers vs. 3’s Company:
After consecutive beautiful displays from Power and Ball Hogs, it was back to the trenches for the Ghost Ballers vs. 3’s Company game. Everything was contested for 3’s Company, especially Michael Beasley. He was able to hit some tough shots, as he is wont to do, but he took far too many of them. He finished 8-24 from the floor, and failed to tally an assist.
It was a regression of sorts for 3’s Company, who turned a corner during 2022 when they stopped depending on Beasley making tough shots and started sharing the ball, with Beasley in particular making a quantum leap as a playmaker.
For much of the game, it looked like 3’s Company would be able to escape with a win, because Ghost Ballers could not get anything going offensively. The team was cold early, and when 3’s Company backed off of the perimeter and refused to let Ghost Ballers sniff the paint, things got pretty dire offensively. 3’s Company led 40-29 in the second half, and looked like they were on their way to an ugly win.
No lead is safe in the BIG3, though. The Ghost Ballers finally broke through offensively when Jonathon Simmons hit some outside shots, and before anybody knew it they had a 48-42 lead off a furious 19-2 run. 3’s Company was able to cut the lead to 48-47 before Jonathon Simmons drilled a catch-and-shoot midrange jumper off an inbounds play to give Ghost Ballers the 50-47 come-from-behind victory.
FIREWATCH: Killer 3’s Coach Michael Cooper challenged a foul by Michael Beasley on Darnell Jackson with the score 22-12, Beasley stayed in front and Jackson sent a pull-up too strong off the glass, NO BASKET.
Tri State vs. Killer 3’s:
The final game of the day was a fantastic matchup between Jason Richardson’s Tri State and Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session’s Killer 3’s. Both of these teams really played off of their captains, who happen to be two of the best all-around players in the league.
Richardson’s normally rock-solid stroke wasn’t quite there for him, as he shot just 1-6 from three, but the former high school center went back to his roots and did a fantastic job of working inside. He saw early that his jumper wasn’t going to be there for him, made an adjustment, and committed to being efficient. He spent much of the game as the de facto center alongside Justin Dentmon and Devin Ebanks, and did a tremendous job creating and converting opportunities in the paint. He scored on post-ups, put-backs, and everything in between, and finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds on 7-8 shooting from inside the arc. He also had one of the nicer plays of the day when he made a gorgeous backdoor cut, got the pass inside, and rose up for a vintage dunk with two hands.
Richardson got a ton of help from BIG3 rookie Devin Ebanks, who made his league debut in style. He finished with 17 points on 7-12 shooting, and made all three of his three-point attempts.
On the other side of the ball, Tri State had their hands full due to a vintage Frank Nitty performance. Session was a blur with the ball, constantly looked to attack the basket, found open teammates when the help defense cheated towards him, and was a menace on the boards, as he snagged six total rebounds and four offensive boards. It’s so clear to see how both of these teams play off of their captains, whether it’s Richardson’s efficiency and professionalism or Frank Nitty’s energy and enthusiasm.
Tri State was able to stay ahead of the Killer 3’s most of the way by getting just a few more good looks than the Killer 3’s were, and won the game 50-44 on a nice catch-and-shoot jumper by Ebanks off of a well-drawn baseline out-of-bounds play from the one and only Julius Erving.
Killer 3’s Coach Charles Oakley challenged a foul by Franklin Session on a Justin Dentmon 3-pointer. Dentmon stepped behind the line during the Bring the Fire Challenge, NO BASKET.
Tri State Coach Julius Erving challenged a foul by Justin Dentmon on a Franklin Session 3-point shot, Session lost his footing under the hoop, NO BASKET.