By Ian Jackson (@IanNicholas42)
This past weekend ended the final wait for any completest basketball-head.
The past two years have seen a new option arise for those who would like to see hard-court action approximating the NBA, even after the NBA Finals conclude, in the BIG3. As the third season of the 3-on-3 league arrived on the scene this past Saturday and Sunday, the showcase of former all-stars and potential 10-day contract holders in many ways looks as strong and expansive as its ever had.
Opening up Saturday in Detroit at the Little Caesars Arena, a three game line-up featured two prime examples of what could be considered rivalries, as limited as they may seem in the short history of the BIG3 so far. Matching up two rematches from the first two championship games, the first two games of the 2019 season saw first-year champ Trilogy, with new coach Kenyon Martin, taking on the 3-Headed Monsters with head coach Gary Payton. Later, the current defending champions Power, led by head coach “Lady Magic” Nancy Leiberman squared off with 3’s Company.
Ending the first night fittingly was two of the four new expansion teams this year as the Enemies, lead by former Trilogy coach Rick Mahorn, took on Bivouac with first-year coach Reggie Theus and former Detroit Pistons players Josh Smith and Will Bynum who both got love throughout the evening in the “D,” who brought out an impressive 14,235 fans in attendance.
In Saturday’s first game Reggie Evans picked up where he left off last year and the year before as one of the league’s top bruisers. Evans put together a monster double-double with 22 points and 23 rebounds, throwing his hat in the ring as an early MVP candidate. It was also a great sight to see as Rashard “Sweet Lew” Lewis returning from an Achilles injury and being his usual productive self with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Trilogy’s James White (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Patrick O’Bryant (10 points, 3 rebounds) helped to keep it close but the Monsters pulled off a 51-46 win. A surprise during the game was at halftime when the newest addition to the 3-Headed Monsters, Larry Sanders, proposed to his girlfriend in front of the Detroit crowd which was a sweet icing on the cake for the former Milwaukee Buck.
Arguably, Saturday’s most anticipated contest featured Power and 3’s Company, who were the last teams alive in 2018. Power’s co-captain Cuttino Mobley was on a whole other level Saturday night scoring 28 points, six rebounds, four assists and five three pointers. Working against a 25-14 point lead at halftime, 3’s Company’s Drew Gooden stepped up and helped his team close the deficit in the second half.
DeMarr Johnson also helped in the comeback attempt with a late 4-pointer but it was not enough as Mobley and Power returned with big shot with big shot. “The Birdman,” Chris Andersen, added 10 rebounds in the 50-38 winning effort.
Power coach Nancy Lieberman lauded the team’s teamwork as she led her team, as well as Corey Maggette, last year’s MVP, who did not play in the game due to injury.
Tension flared early in Saturday’s final contest as Enemies’s Royce White and Bivouac’s Josh Smith got into it as they started in a heated exchange and then pushing back and forth. It looked like Josh Smith was about to throw a punch in his first game in the BIG3 but luckily the referees and players broke the fight up.
As a result of the scuffle, they both got ejected and the game went on and while the game was going on there were boos every time when Smith touched the ball and cheers every time he missed. The history behind that was of his history playing for the Pistons and how they signed him to a big contract and he did not meet up to the expectations.
Several Bivouac players stepped up in Smith’s absence, one person in particular is Will Bynum, who played for the Pistons for six seasons led the way with 22 points and could be a surprise sleeper to a lot of people should he help lead Bivouac into the playoffs. Anthony Morrow also contributed in the 50-43 win with 16 points and five rebounds. Enemies’ Craig Smith teared it up for his side with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Saturday night’s action brought a little bit of everything that has made the BIG3 unique while giving a glimpse into more success given that when the night was over the league name was the No. 1 trending topic in the country.
Sunday included more physical, showstopping 3-on-3 action as BIG3 rolled to Indianapolis and completed its first multi-day week of games. The first game showcased the league’s two other new expansion teams as the Triplets, led by BIG3 rookie Joe Johnson and WNBA legend Lisa Leslie as coach against the Aliens, led by returning big man Greg Oden, Andre Owens and head coach Nate “Tiny” Archibald.
An intense back and forth commenced in the first half as the Aliens took a 26-20 lead, but with the guidance of Leslie and the quick spark of Johnson’s offense, the Triplets had what it took to comeback in the game and that’s exactly what happened.
Looking like a natural in the 3-on-3 game, “Iso Joe” helped his team with a quick five points to ignite a 10-0 run for the Triplets, giving them the lead for good and from there the Triplets never looked back as they hold on to win 50-40.
Johnson led the Triplets with 27 points, 16 rebounds and four assists in his BIG3 debut. Brandon Rush (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Owens (11 points and 4 rebounds) did their thing for the Aliens but it wasn’t enough to pull out the win. Later on, Tri-State with Amar’e Stoudemire and head coach Julius “Dr. J” Erving took on the Killer 3’s with Josh Powell and head coach Charles Oakley.
In the first half, Tri-State came out firing with their instant offense featuring Jason Richardson scoring 10 points, giving them a 26-17 halftime lead. The second half was just a little bit different as the game intensified. Both teams were exchanging baskets back and forth and even provided the equivalent of overtime as going by the rule of winning by two points forced the scoring past the regulation ending of 50.
The Killer 3’s were able to pull out the win with a Donte Greene game-winner 54-52, closing out the BIG3’s weekend coverage on CBS Network with a thrill. Greene’s 14 points along with Powell’s 18 points and nine rebounds were able to get the job done even with Stephen Jackson out with an injury. A hard fought effort by Tri-State saw Stoudemire pour in 26 points and 10 rebounds while Richardson totaled 17 points and 10 rebounds.
In the final game of the day, the Ghost Ballers with Mike Bibby and head coach “The Iceman” George Gervin took on the Ball Hogs, led by “The White Mamba” Brian Scalabrine and head coach Rick Berry.
It was close in the first half, but that started to change in the second as Berry and his crew had to suffer the news that Jermaine Taylor ruptured his Achilles during the game and that started to be the downfall for the Ball Hogs as they lost momentum and the Ghost Ballers started to capitalize.
A resurgent Jamario Moon and Mike Taylor were enough to provide the Ghost Ballers with the 50-39 victory. Moon scored 20 points, seven rebounds and Taylor scored 15 points and two rebounds. The Ball Hogs saw Deshawn Stevenson, Will McDonald and Marcus Williams each get into double figures in scoring but it just wasn’t enough to get the win as they head back to the drawing board.
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