Tonight finally concludes the first ever AAA Division of the DLNY. I wouldn’t have picked neither the Rage nor Jurassic Park to be here, especially not about a month ago when both teams were in need of life support.
How a 4 seed meets a 6 seed in the Finals is beyond me, but that’s nothing new. Much gets beyond me. You should have seen my GPA in college.
Help run this league for months AND then watch the Finals at 8 and 9? You gotta be kidding me, Spider! I gotta party!
What I do know is that the fact that no 1, 2, or 3 seed is playing tonight is great for the sport of basketball and great for the state of this division. Every team has a legitimate shot to win it.
I mean, check it out: Tonight we have two teams with a combined overall regular season record of 9-9. Yup, a flat .500. In the history of major sports events, a championship game has never had this happen.
Well, let’s throw all the records out tonight. In our game, it’s about he who’s hot last and right now no two teams are hotter than Jurassic Park and the Rage.
1 Did that 52-41 regular season Jurassic Park win over the Rage in early October mean anything? Absolutely not. Back then, the Rage were still a middling team who looked like they might not even make the playoffs were it not for the fact that every team makes the playoffs in the DL. Lucky for them, cause all they’ve done in the playoffs is morphed into a ridiculously cohesive team in ripping off three straight, all against teams who were supposed to beat them. In the regular season meeting, Jurassic Park shot a sublime 56.8% from the field. It was just one of those nights when everything they threw up was going in. Sure, that can happen from time to time, and maybe it’ll happen again tonight, but chances are it won’t. As far as a mental edge for Jurassic just for beating them once already, throw that out the window. The Rage beat Picked Last and HKT in the playoffs, teams that beat them in the regular season handily. This is a new Rage team.
2 What can we gather from both these team’s last game? Jurassic and the Rage both share the achievement of having beaten the AAA’s top seed, Picked Last, in their last games. Jurassic held off Picked at the buzzer last night and the Rage stunned the same team on Sunday in overtime with an 8-1 run.
In both games, both teams were able to make the clutch play when it counted most. For Jurassic, Felix Shen came up with a huge block at the end and for the Rage, Siukwo Cheng nailed a free throw at the end of regulation to force OT, and then followed with a three that broke the game open in the extra session.
Outside of the gutsy plays, Jurassic and the Rage each won by controlling the glass. Both teams out-rebounded Picked Last by healthy margins and it’s no surprise given that the League’s top two rebounders - Arif Ansari and Sean Zhang play for each team.
Who’s gutsier – and who once again plays chairman of the boards – will mean everything to who hoists the cup tonight. (Actually, it’s a ball trophy, not a cup. But hoisting the ball didn’t sound as good.)
3 Will Cheng continue to be a playa playa? I don’t know what triggered it, but in the last two games Cheng has played his best games of the season for the Rage. He scored 10 and then 16 points in successive games after averaging all of about 5 points per game in the regular season. I alluded to this recently somewhere else, and I call this the Jerome James Effect. You know the ex-Seattle Sonic center who averaged 1.2 ppg in the regular season for the Sonics and the poofed up to 18.8 and 12 per game to nab a multi-million dollar deal with the Knicks in the off-season. He’s back at about 2.5 ppg now (and hurt to boot) and that, folks, is why they are the New York Knicks. As for Cheng, maybe he reverts back to 5.3 next season, but we’re still in the current post-season right now, so by the Jerome James Effect, he should still be on fire.
4 Will Kenny Rogers come out tonight? Not the baseball pitcher who cheats for Detroit, but the good ole’ country cowboy himself. The man who penned The Gambler. Jurassic’s Victor Wu is no stranger to parlays, over/unders, reverses, or shaving (points, not his facial hair – Chinese men don’t have any.) Before each game, Wu likes to set a spread for himself and then say that Jurassic will cover it. His record in the post-season so far is a healthy 4-1. This will be Jurassic’s sixth post-season game (where else in the world outside of the NBA and the NCAA would you get six playoff games?) When someone’s rolling the die well, you let the man be. Should Wu move to 5-1, Vic, please make my picks for the NCAA tournament for me.
5 Head to head at each position:
Point Guard Shen is the ultimate unselfish play maker. He’s perhaps a little too unselfish as he averages maybe 3 shots a game. I think the reason Jurassic had such an ordinary regular season is because while Shen would be ideal in a high powered line-up, this team only has put a couple of guys who can put the ball in the basket. Jurassic needed to have more of a shoot first/pass second oriented point in order to be more successful. But hey, how can you argue with results? Getting to the Finals is proof that something is working right. As long as Shen is playing tough defense as he usually does, and Jurassic can get their go-to guys hot, they’ll be in good shape. Ace Watana mans the 1 for the Rage and, like Shen, is a smart defender with speed to burn. He’s money at the line and is at his best when he’s applying pressure in a full-court trap, forcing turnovers, and picking them up for lay-ups. He can knock down jumpers decently and is much more offensively oriented than Shen. That gives the nod here to the Ace.
Shooting Guard Henry Park is one of Jurassic’s able scorers. He can go into funks where he’ll miss 5 straight from 3, but it won’t bother him none to attempt the 6th one that will usually find the bottom of the net. When he’s at his best, he’s a godsend, dropping in jumpers with his feathery touch anywhere from 5 feet out to the arc. When he’s at his worst, he’s complaining about no calls and pushing the envelope to get kicked out of games with his “horse-manure” outbursts. If this were the real NBA, he’d be gone in a 60 seconds after two dirty looks at an official. Jerry Lu leads the Rage in scoring and has been the lone consistent piece in the Rage wheel the entire season. He can dribble, drive, and dish which makes him a 3-D player. 3-pointer? Got it. Free throws? Automatic. Assists and steals? He does the small things too. His stock is so high, I’m parking Henry and going with Lu here.
Small Forward A poet or a graduate student? Either way, we have a cerebral player at the 3 position. For Jurassic, it’s Steve Gong who, as has been documented, writes prose before big games which means Jurassic players ought to be getting something in their inboxes today from him. Well, he’s deft with the pen, but deft on the court too as the athletic swingman loves to drive rack and mix it up down low for rebounds. His only thing is sometimes, as he has in two of the last three playoff games, he’s inconsistent. In two of the three games he shot 3 of 12 and 3 of 11. In the other, he was 7 of 13. If he’s making more than missing, and writing, of course, he can swing the game Jurassic’s way. Cheng, who is studying something that has him in the midst of finals this week (Finals in the school, Finals on the court), has really come on in the playoffs. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, but can he upkeep it? Will school work have bogged him down? The Rage actually requested to move this game to Saturday (the nerve!) so it could accommodate his schedule. He’ll probably be here tonight, but I think for a young guy playing on such a grand stage for the first time, the pressure’s going to be a little too much as he’s thinking about other things. Go with Gong.
Power Forward Ever since Kon Cheung lit up Run B&C for 5 three-pointers, his shot has been off. He’s tossed in a few triples, but after that break out game, people looked at him as The Second Coming. It hasn’t been. Still, Cheung is a very solid player at the 4 for the Rage because he rebounds like a fiend and he is unselfish to a fault. Sometimes you want to see him just pull the 3, but because he knows it might not be the best shot, he’s not afraid to trust in his teammates and swing the ball around to the other side or patiently wait for a better option. A team has to love a player like that. In a me-first world we live in, guy’s like him are hard to come by. Case in point is Jurassic’s power forward who is (I don’t know exactly, but let’s just say) Swishy Rassiwalla. Swishy rarely shows up to games for his team. When he does, he’s been missing for so long, some times it looks like he forgot how to play. He wears sweats when he plays, disrespecting the game’s wardrobe rules, and if he’s called for a walk or gets beat on defense, he hangs his head like a beaten dog. Why do I ride Swishy so bad? Cause it’s too easy. Cheung, easy.
Center You know it’s going to be a great game when the League’s two best big men are going to be involved. Arif Ansari is the top rebounder on the season and has been doing nothing but collecting double doubles in the playoffs including last night’s 14 point 12 rebound effort. He’s been automatic from within 5 feet, which is where he should stay. I know he likes to step outside to prove his worth every once in awhile, but his jumpers from 10 feet out lately have been hitting nothing but the backboard. If he stays in his area and lets the guards do the work, it could be a long night for Sean Zhang, the Rage’s big man who is 2nd in the AAA in boards. Zhang’s points don’t come off of post-ups. He’s more of the kind of big who’ll get points off of broken plays, in transition, and the occasional 12 footer. It’s effective for the Rage cause they enjoy running. This one is close, but so far this season, only Ansari’s name has been in any MVP discussions. Ansari it is.
Bench Both teams come with nice benches. For the Rage, they carry a deep bench with back-ups at every position. Not many teams can say that. CS Hsia’s got Zhang’s back, Gary Chen’s got Lu or Cheng, Polo Chen’s got Cheung, and Lu can spell Ace. Lu’s a starter you say? Yeah, well Lu spells Ace when G-Chen gets Lu. They mix it around like that. They’re in the Finals. It works. Jurassic’s bench is smaller in size, but may have more talent. It boasts players like Mike Owh, Andre Liu, and Wu. Owh and Liu play in the NL and Wu knows how to pick winners (I already told you that.) Bench, Jurassic.
I’d urge you to come out and catch this game tonight, but I know it falls upon deaf ears. I’ll be the lone simple sideline geek yelling, “Go team!” tonight. See no one there.
Now that’s the type of semi-final we like to see!
Oops – I don’t know what I mean by “we” since about 5 people were in attendance for most of this game, but what I’m trying to say is that Wednesday night’s 45-43 Jurassic Park win over Picked Last in PE was the kind of game that quite honestly makes me prefer watching Dream League games to NBA games sometimes.
Competitive, tight, the outcome undetermined till the final horn.
And what a determined effort it was by Felix Shen at that horn.
When a loose ball wound up in the hands of Ramsey Ong with just mere seconds left, Shen shot straight out and up as Ong attempted a last-second shot to tie the game, and swatted it with a resounding thud – the kind that only hand to leather basketball can make.
As jubilation settled in that Jurassic had a) defeated Picked Last for the first time in four tries this season and b) they were going onto the Finals to play the Cinderella Rage on Thursday night, the least likely of shot blockers got carried off the floor by his teammates and received a peck on the cheek from adorable admirer, actress Jill Sanders (his Eva Longoria), who was in the building on an off-night from performing in the Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ that stars Paul Benedict, The Jefferson’s English neighbor, as Scrooge. Poor girl, she actually got thrust into doing stats for the game since regular recorders have dropped off the face of the Earth. (Since she was once a Minnesota Timberwolves dancer, the intricacies of the game came quite easily to her and she was great in a pinch.)
Arif Ansari once again dominated the post, putting up 14 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. He helped to make life for Stan Yeung miserable from the field (just 3 of 12) and kept Ken Lam off the glass.
Picked Last, the #1 seed, shockingly falls short of their quest for the title, thus meaning either a 4 or a 6 seed will win the inaugural AAA crown. Absolutely awesome. Parity rules this place.
And after the game, a game in which Picked Last once again dressed only five, when Quincy Tso was only curious to know how many he scored – and whether he won the scoring title (yes, you did Q) – it showed to me that his head just wasn’t in the right place on this night. Maybe for the season.
Congratulations to Jurassic for getting a monkey off their backs and moving onto the Finals, but something else not quite right was also the way in which they fled the gym right after the game when the NL and AL Final games were still yet to be played.
May karma return your favor and may there only be a handful of people on the sidelines (perhaps a sherpa, a blind man, and William Hung) watching your game Thursday night.
I’m not naming names, but that was bush league stuff, you know who.