2023 Week 2 BIG3 Recaps
By BIG3 July 3, 2023
Here’s what happened in Week 2 of the Summer of Fire.
Game 1: Killer 3’s Defeat 3’s Company
For the second consecutive week, 3’s Company didn’t come out with a ton of energy, and didn’t move the ball much. That’s not going to cut it against the Killer 3’s.
The Killer 3’s struggled to hit shots from the perimeter. Even though they got plenty of open jumpers, they went just 22-60 from the field and 4-22 from beyond the arc. That was about the only thing that kept the game close, as the Killer 3s were able to overwhelm 3’s Company with constant ball pressure.
Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session was, once again, the spark plug on both ends of the floor. He might have the slickest handle of anyone in the BIG3 this season, and absolutely nobody could stay in front of him on Saturday. Frank Nitty got to the rim a few times, and when 3’s Company started to cheat a help defender over towards him he would hit the open man. Again, it was only a poor shooting night that kept the Killer 3’s from a dominant offensive performance, as the team converted less than it should have on wide-open looks generated by Frank Nitty. (Session himself also struggled to make the defense pay for sagging off of him, as he shot 4-19 from the field and 1-7 from beyond the arc.)
Even though his shot wasn’t falling, this game belonged to Frank Nitty. The work he does to create extra possessions is so impressive, especially for a guard – unofficially, the Killer 3’s scored 8 second chance points off of Frank Nitty rebounds in the first half alone, and he also had a strip that led to a layup in that first half. If all that wasn’t enough, he forced Mario Chalmers to sit with 3 fouls with the score 8-7 in the first half, which made it that much harder for 3’s Company to settle into any kind of rhythm offensively.
This game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate – 3’s Company made a nice run right at the end of the game to make the score respectable, but were never really in it after Donte Greeene hit a four-pointer to make the score 43-28. In a game where both teams struggled from the field, it really did come down to effort plays – the Killer 3’s ended up with 60 field goals attempted to 51 from 3’s Company, which proved to be the difference.
The game-winner came when Donte Greene, who was one of the few players able to consistently get buckets, got the put-back on a Frank Nitty miss to end it by a final score of 51-44.
With the score 17-15 Killer 3’s, Charles Oakley challenged a foul by Donte Greene on Hollis Thompson. Thompson missed a step-back fadeaway, NO BASKET.
With the score 45-34 Killer 3’s Michael Cooper challenged a foul by Mario Chalmers on Donte Greene. Chalmers was able to strip Greene under the hoop, NO BASKET.
Game 2: Tri State Defeats Power
This was a statement game. Power looked as good as any team in the league in Week 1, and Tri State absolutely destroyed them on Saturday. If you’re wondering who the early-season MVP is, look no further than Tri State Captain Jason Richardson.
In Week 1, Richardson’s outside shot wasn’t falling, but he took over the game by playing inside and showing a flawless all-around game. He continued to be an absolute force inside the arc in Game 2 – he was active on the boards, he got to the rim off the dribble, he knocked down mid-range shots, showed some big-man skills, and did a fantastic job of playmaking. He finished with six assists, and the behind-the-back drop-off pass he made to DeShawn Stephens after setting a screen and rolling to the rim was one of the best plays of the week.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Richardson brought his three-point shot in Week 2, hitting 5 of the 10 shots he took from beyond the arc. He hit all six of the shots he took from two-point range, and he finished with a final line of 29 points on 17 shots, six rebounds, and six assists. MVP stuff.
Tri State also did a good job of getting Stephens involved within the flow of the offense – he was able to get deep catches in the flow of the offense, and he knew what to do with it when he got it, finishing with 18 points on 9-12 shooting.
Everything Tri State did on offense worked, and they had a ton of success getting open looks in the FIREBALL3 version of “transition” – when they grabbed a defensive rebound, they would rush to an open spot on the perimeter and look to get a shot up immediately after they cleared the ball, before Power was able to get set on defense.
Power didn’t play nearly as badly as the final score would suggest. They did their best to compete on defense, kept their composure, and actually played well on offense, but they found themselves on the wrong end of a virtuoso performance from Richardson and Tri State.
The game winner came when Richardson hit a three to end the game at 52-32.
Game 3: Enemies Defeat Ball Hogs
A fantastic bounce-back game for Enemies, who had a real chance against Trilogy in Week 1 before they lost their composure down the stretch. They played with a lot more energy than they did in Week 1, and showed much more of a commitment to putting pressure on the rim and getting looks in the paint. Jordan Crawford was also completely locked in from the perimeter, and tortured whomever the Enemies threw at him with a series of dribble moves into his signature pull-up. He finished with a game-high 22 points on 10-12 shooting, which is incredible for a player who lives on a diet of long jumpers off the dribble. The Enemies only finished with 2 assists on 23 made field goals – even when it’s clicking for Enemies, they’d rather shoot it over you than pass it around you, and it works when you have players who can fill it up like Crawford.
The Enemies were also extremely active defensively, and were able to convert a number of the Ball Hogs’ miscues into “no-clear” baskets.
Elijah Stewart didn’t have his best game from the field, but made tons of extra effort plays, and really gave the Enemies a shot in the arm. Isaiah Austin was aggressive inside, especially when the Ball Hogs went small, and this often looked like the best version of Enemies.
The Ball Hogs slowed down a bit after their incredible Week 1 performance against Aliens, but still put out a really nice performance. The speed and movement of Jodie Meeks and Leandro Barbosa forced the Enemies to leave Jeff Ayres wide open on five straight possessions early in the game, and he was able to make them pay by hitting two of the four threes they gave him and a layup off a nice pick-and-roll. Meeks wasn’t as red-hot as he was in Week 1, going just 2-8 on shots outside the arc, but his off-ball movement is still as good as any player in the league’s, and he was able to get some nice layups off of cuts and grab a game-high 10 rebounds by simply beating the Enemies to the ball time after time.
Even though Ayres made a respectable amount of his jumpers (At halftime, Rick Barry joked with former Ball Hogs Captain Brian Scalabrine that he would have “loved” to see Scal make 2 out of every 5 threes he took when he was still playing, it’s hard not to wonder if the Ball Hogs could have found more success with someone the Enemies weren’t so comfortable leaving completely alone on offense.
Also, even though they’re undersized and prefer to make the extra pass instead of risk taking a contested shot, it might be nice if the Ball Hogs could find ways to draw contact more often. For the second week in a row, they passed up some potential layups to set up open looks from three, and for the second week in a row they took just two total free throws.
The game came down to the wire, and with the score tied 49-49 Gilbert Arenas drew up a beautiful play out of a time-out. Austin set a nice pick for Crawford, Stewart set a sneaky back-pick on Ayres to keep him from stepping up to contest, and Crawford banked home a nice little runner to give the Enemies the 51-49 win.
With the score tied 47-47, Ball Hogs coach Rick Barry challenged a foul by Jodie Meeks on Elijah Stewart. Meeks forced Stewart to pick up his dribble but Stewart was able to get a tough fadeaway from the right block to fall, BASKET GOOD.
Game 4: Triplets Defeat Trilogy
As incredible as Jason Richardson’s game against Power was, it may not have been the best performance of the week. Jeremy Pargo was an absolute house of fire in Week 2, and almost single-handedly gave Trilogy its first loss since July 10th of 2022.
Pargo absolutely had the ball on a string. He was able to get Amir Johnson in the air in the lane while keeping a live dribble and lay it in. He hit a double-cross into a step-back 3. He was able to get to the rim after hitting Isaiah Briscoe with an absolutely disgusting lefty hesi dribble out at the three-point line. Also, everything that left his hand went in the basket. He broke the game open by hitting four-pointers on consecutive possessions to give Triplets a 23-15 lead, and really didn’t look back. He finished with 31 points on 12–19 shooting from the field, including 3-5 shooting from 3-point range and 2-3 shooting from the four-point circles.
Trilogy stuck to their strengths, and Earl Clark and Isaiah Briscoe were able to get a good amount of long pull-up jumpers to fall, but struggled to get pressure on the rim the way they usually do. After spending most of last season as a monster inside who could be inconsistent from three-point range, Briscoe has flipped the script to start this season – through Week 2, he’s 10-15 from three-point range but a baffling 2-13 from inside the arc. Triplets also did a better job than Enemies at keeping Trilogy off the line, and Stephen Jackson’s team attempted only three free throws on Saturday.
Joe Johnson struggled from the field, but wisely kept his shot attempts relatively low and fed the hot hand to the tune of a game-high six assists. The game-winner came on a Bring the Fire challenge when Pargo backed Earl Clark under the basket, got him off balance with a power-gather, and hit the wide-open layup to end it by a final score of 50-42.
With the score 48-42 Triplets, Trilogy Coach Stephen Jackson challenged a foul by Earl Clark on Jeremy Pargo. Pargo got Clark under the basket and hit a layup, BASKET GOOD.
Game 5: Three Headed Monsters Defeat Bivouac
After some bravura performances from perimeter players, this game featured the more nuanced pleasures of watching Reggie Evans manhandle people.
3HM started the game nicely with a pair of midrange jumpers from Evans and a nice four-point shot by Kevin Murphy off a nice post-and-kick, but after that both teams went very cold for a very long time. The offenses degenerated into Kevin Murphy and Gerald Green pulling up for long, quick-trigger jumpers, and the returns were not good. At one point in the second half, 3HM were 0/7 from three-point range (Murphy’s four-pointer didn’t count), and Bivouac were just 1/15 from three.
For the second week in a row, Bivouac really struggled to get good possessions offensively (they started the game 3-18 from the field) and were far too eager to settle. About the only thing they had going for them were the hustle baskets being provided courtesy of Corey Brewer.
3HM was able to break the stalemate with a combination of drives to the basket, second-chance points, and Rashard Lewis post-ups – Bivouac had absolutely no answer for the latter, and the
3HM Captain was able to rack up points by taking smaller defenders to the left block time and time again.
The game-winner came when Kevin Murphy hit a nice pull-up from the top of the key to give 3HM the 51-39 win.
It should be noted Coaches still appear too gun-shy when it comes to Bringing the Fire. They tend to wait for the very end of the half or, more bafflingly, use it on a foul they think shouldn’t have been called. Whether or not a foul actually occurred should have no bearing on whether or not to Bring the Fire! It’s not a review, the showdown happens no matter what. If you Bring the Fire on the most blatant hack in the history of man, it still results in the same challenge as what replay shows should have been a clear no-call.
It’s understandable that a player getting “saved” from a bad call can boost morale, but that’s not thinking strategically. At the very least, coaches should be ready to pull the trigger when they have a chance to put pressure on an offensive player who doesn’t thrive in one-on-one situations.
(In fact, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing, on game point, if the defending team was in the bonus, to give an off-ball foul to a player badly suited to a Bring the Fire Challenge instead of playing a conventional defensive possession – I believe that the defense would get the ball back after if the offense failed to convert in that scenario.)
In any case, in this game Kevin Murphy went to the line in the first half with the score 16-10 and 3HM in the bonus. This would seem like a Bring the Fire scenario. If Murphy, a lights-out free throw shooter, makes it, it’s 18-10 3HM and they get the ball back. If he doesn’t win the challenge, it’s Bivouac ball with the chance to cut the lead to 16-12. As it went, Bivouac “saved” its challenge, even though they didn’t use it in the first half. Of a potential 24 Bring the Fire challenges on Saturday, we saw just nine. You get two Bring The Fire Challenges a game. The people love Bring the Fire. Bring the Fire.
FIREWATCH: Bivouac Coach Gary Payton challenges foul by Corey Brewer on Rashard Lewis. Lewis makes a nice take but blows the layup, NO BASKET.
Game 6: Ghost Ballers Defeat Aliens
The Ghost Ballers improved to 2-0, and they looked better than they did in their Week 1 win against 3’s Company. They managed to hit some outside shots early to keep the defense stretched, they played with a lot of energy, and were able to throw their weight around against an undersized Aliens team. I’d still like to see Chris Johnson commit himself to punishing mismatches inside instead of floating to the perimeter, but he does seem more comfortable when he’s facing the basket. He had a great all-around game on Saturday, finishing with a team-high 17 points on 6-7 shooting from the field and 3-3 shooting from three-point range. He’s as talented a player as you’ll find in this league – if he could find a way to consistently assert himself on offense, he’d be an MVP candidate.
The Aliens remained a bit too perimeter-dependent, and Dusan Bulut remains mired in an early-season slump. Through the first two weeks, he’s shot 8-29 from the field and 0-6 from three-point range. He’s been one of the league’s best shooters since he joined the BIG3, so expect him to turn that around sooner rather than later. I did like that Janis Timma was more willing to venture inside the arc than he was in Week 1, as he made all 5 of the shots he took inside the arc. However, he went 3-10 from beyond the arc, and Aliens are still giving away too many possessions when he fires a quick-trigger 3 off a defensive rebound. Finally, Tomislav Ivosev is still having a hard time figuring out how to use his size inside, and finished just 3-10 from the field.
Rick Mahorn’s team competed well and did a good job of controlling the boards, but an impressive 7-13 performance from beyond the arc was enough for the Ghost Ballers to overcome the Aliens’ sputtering offense.
There was a massive play down the stretch. With the score tied at 39, Bulut beat Darnell Jackson clean on a behind-the-back dribble, but lost the ball on what replay proved was a clear trip by Jackson. The Ghost Ballers immediately got a layup off the turnover, and stretched their lead to 4 after Bulut picked up a tech arguing the play. The Aliens never really seemed to get back in it after that, and Jonathon Simmons hit a wide-open three a bit later to give the Ghost Ballers a 51-43 win.
With the score 22-21 Aliens, Aliens Coach Rick Mahorn challenged a foul by Janis Timma on Chris Johnson. Johnson made a nice turnaround pull-up in the lane, BASKET GOOD.
With the score 30-29 Aliens, Ghost Ballers Coach George Gervin challenged a foul by Mike Taylor on Tomislav Ivosev. Taylor stayed in front of Ivosev, and Ivosev missed a lefty layup badly. NO BASKET.
There you have it – after two absolutely wild weeks of BIG3 action, only two undefeated teams remain. Make sure to tune in on Sunday, July 9th for Week 3 of the Summer of Fire.