Three Takeaways from Week 5
By John Krolik, @krolikjohn July 19, 2022
Well, the Return of the Ballout was nothing if not eventful. Here are my three key takeaways from Week 5:
1 – The Ball Hogs Deserved Better
This Ball Hogs team really could have broken through and made the playoffs for the first time this season. Leandro Barbosa had established himself as one of the best players in the league, the sharpshooting Jodie Meeks was the perfect sidekick for him, and the 78-year old Rick Barry has as much intensity and passion as any coach – or human – in the league. (Have you ever seen a 78-year old man make an underhanded shot from the four-point circle? Because I have.)
Unfortunately, the timing just didn’t work out for the Ball Hogs this season. Barbosa missed Week 1 because of his responsibilities as a Player Development Coach with the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. In Week 2, he was clearly still adjusting to being on the floor instead of the sidelines, as he shot an otherwise-inexplicable 3-16 from the field.
In Week 3, with Barbosa and Meeks both at full power and in the lineup, the Ball Hogs overcame a 30-point effort from Joe Johnson to beat the Triplets. Then in Week 4, they suffered a loss when Jodie Meeks was out of the lineup.
In Week 5, they had a 29-24 lead over the Aliens, who are currently tied with the 3 Headed Monsters for the best record in the league. Barbosa had just pulled off an incredible move, breaking off not one but two defenders with separate behind-the-back dribbles en route to a layup.
On the very next play, he got tangled up trying to fight through a screen and had to come off the floor with a lower leg injury. It was quickly announced he would not return, and the Aliens finished the game on a 26-8 run with Barbosa out.
To make matters worse, early reports indicate that Barbosa’s injury could be a nasty one. I don’t want to refer to the Ball Hogs’ season in the past tense, but the best they can do at this point is run the table and end up with a 4-4 record, which probably wouldn’t be enough to get them in the playoffs. And the odds of them running the table if Barbosa misses another game, which to put things mildly looks quite likely, are slim at best.
This is a true bummer for the Ball Hogs, their fans, the BIG3 in general, and Barbosa, whose skill on the court is only matched by how genuinely nice of a person he is. All we can really do is hope his injury isn’t as serious as initially feared.
2 – I Don’t Know Where This 3’s Company Team Came From, but I Like It
I’ve been harsh on 3’s Company over the last couple of weeks. Their game plan has largely revolved around watching Michael Beasley take contested shots, and it hadn’t really paid dividends since the first half of their first game of the season. Beasley was shooting 34.4% from the field and 16.7% from three-point range coming into this game, and only three players in the league had taken more shots than him.
Coach Michael Cooper must have done some serious work between Week 4 and Week 5, because 3’s Company came out looking like the Showtime Lakers he was a part of.
3’s Company went into halftime against the Ghost Ballers with a 25-9 lead, and made 11 of their 12 shots from the field. That’s 92%, folks. It all really came down to ball movement and man movement – players moved without the ball, and their teammates passed it to them when that off-ball movement got them open.
Julian Wright, a big man who relies on others to create his shot for him, came into this game with 20 points through the first four games. He had 18 points on Sunday. Michael Beasley had three assists on the season before Sunday. He had six against the Ghost Ballers.
Beasley actually played in the flow of the game, and finished with 14 points on 7-12 shooting. Wright and Mario Chalmers both had more points than him, but I actually think that’s not the worst thing in the world. This version of Beasley is so much better than the one who feels like his team needs him to score every time he touches the ball.
The Ghost Ballers’ laconic performance certainly made things easier on 3’s Company, but the bottom line is that the team I put at the bottom of my Power Rankings last week looked like the best team in the league in Week 5.
The Killer 3’s Have Found Their Identity
I wasn’t terribly high on this team through the first few weeks, but I’ve come around on them because of how sure of themselves they’ve looked over the last two weeks. Frank Nitty is going to drive the ball right at your throat, pass to an open teammate if you manage to cut him off, and essentially teleport to where a rebound or loose ball happens to end up. There’s a reason he’s second in the league in assists and third in rebounds.
Donte Greene is one of the smoothest scorers in the league, and Dominique Johnson is nearly automatic if left open from deep. Finally, Coach Charles Oakley is still the last guy in the league you want to mess with. This is a team that is going to make life tough on you no matter what, and if Greene and Johnson have their shots working they can absolutely beat any team in the league.