The 2018 Winter Basketball playoffs are finally here!!! It’s been a long season, but it’s finally time for the stars to shine and champions to be crowned. Some teams had their hard work rewarded and were locked in to their playoff spots, but others had their playoff fate determined right here in the final week of the season.
For the Russell Westbrook Division, we knew who was going to the playoffs, but it was a matter of where. Goodfellas, who were undefeated, had already locked in their number 1 seed along with Anytime Bail Bonds Ballers in the 2 spot. Ball Don’t Lie and EZ were competing for the 3 seed with a game remaining for each. Ball Don’t Lie was up by one game, but, having split the season series with EZ, didn’t want to leave this one up to a secondary or tertiary tiebreaker. Despite missing their leading scorer, they took it to the defending champs and gave them their toughest matchup of the season. Goodfellas would pull out the victory, however, leaving it up to EZ to make things interesting. They would put up a much better fight than in their first meeting, but would still come up short against the tough matchup in ABB Ballers. This sealed them into the final playoff spot with Ball Don’t Lie just ahead.
In the first game of the coming Sunday, 4-seed EZ will take on 1-seed Goodfellas. EZ will look to bounced back after getting swept in the season series by a combined 116-76. However, they shouldn’t be overlooked. They have been playing a better brand of basketball here in the second half. After starting the season with a rough 1-3 record, they bounced back with a respectable 3-3 record to close out the season and secure their playoff spot. On the other hand, we all know what Goodfellas can do. They have stumbled a bit here to close out the season, but their spot was already clinched and they remain undefeated. We all fully expect the defending champs, led by the league’s leading scorer (tied) and reigning League MVP Ty Jackson, to show why they are the team to beat and frontrunners to retain the crown.
The third game of the night will feature a great matchup between 2-seed Anytime Bail Bonds Ballers and 3-seed Ball Don’t Lie. Both teams mix size with athleticism, are not afraid to play tough, hard-nosed defense, and feature some prolific scorers. They had one true matchup in the regular season, one that ABB Ballers won relatively handedly, but Ball Don’t Lie was without key cog and Player of the Week honoree Vic Rosario. Ball Don’t Lie hit a mid-season skid but are playing strong and have proven themselves to be a formidable threat for the crown. ABB Ballers come in with a championship pedigree and riding high with a 7-1 record to close out the season. They feature their own Player of the Week honoree and reigning league Outstanding Achievement Award winner Robert Cheeks.
The Kristaps Porzingis Division saw much more drama in the final days of the season. New Mutants and Charliewang Express were locked in for 2 of the top 3 playoff spots in the division, but Alligators, Chubb, and The Wolfpack were all fighting for the remaining two spots. The biggest factor was the two games remaining for Alligators, with the final, deciding matchup against Chubb. The Wolfpack, the defending champs, completed their season and were left to wait and hope. At 6-4, there was no guarantee that they would make the playoffs. They needed two losses from Alligators or a loss by Chubb to advance. Alligators took care of business against Smash Bros. in the first game of the week, leaving it all to come down to one game against Chubb. The victory ensured Alligators their playoff spot, but they would help decide who would get the last. A loss to Chubb meant their opponent would advance, while a victory would answer the prayers of The Wolfpack as they anxiously awaited their fate. Alligators would take the final game in convincing fashion, allowing The Wolfpack to sneak into the playoffs, knocking out Chubb, and creating chaos at the top of the division. With three teams tied at 7-3, it would come down to point differential for a tiebreaker, which saw New Mutants come out on top followed by Alligators and then Charliewang Express.
With all of that drama to end the regular season, it’s time to crown a champion, and that starts Sunday. In game two of the night, 2-seed Alligators will take on 3-seed Charliewang Express in what promises to be an exciting matchup. Alligators closed the season on an impressive 6-2 run, including winning 4 of the last 5 and finishing out the season with a pair of impressive wins. Charliewang Express hit a bit of a rough patch in the back half of the season but has since corrected course, looking to be running on all cylinders heading into the playoffs. The two teams only met once in the regularly season, with Charliewang Express narrowly escaping with the victory. Alligators are better known for a stout defense, but they actually scored nearly 70 more points than their playoff opponent on the season. However, they will certainly have their hands full with Charliewang Express, a team that features a pair of game changers in Billy Dowd and Ean Egar who rank as 2 of the top 3 scorers in the division.
The final game of the night will see 4-seed The Wolfpack take on 1-seed New Mutants. That’s right. Certainly no one saw this one coming. That is the defending champs in the four spot and a free agent team leading the way. I guess it is fitting for such a crazy season. Reigning Coach of the Year Alex Brown will have his hands full game planning for New Mutants, who finished the season with the most prolific offense in the entire league, and it wasn’t even close. They even outscored Goodfellas by nearly 90 points. Wow. They have a whopping 4 players on the top 20 list of scorers (no other team has more than 2). The teams are also coming in from different ends of the spectrum. New Mutants is riding an impressive 5 game win streak, tied for the second longest streak in the league over this season, and The Wolfpack is stumbling into the playoffs having lost 3 of their last 4. They are, however, defending champions for a reason and can come into the game with the confidence of winning their only regular season matchup with New Mutants. The odds may be a bit stacked in New Mutants favor, but we all know that The Wolfpack will not be going down without a fight.
After a long, hard-fought season, only 8 teams remain, 2 wins away from immortality as champions. In a crazy season of ups and downs and unlikely stories, these crowns are truly anyone’s to be had. No one is getting any layups for matchups in these playoffs. If you want it, you are going to have to take it. Who’s up for the challenge?
We'd like to congratulate the 2018 Winter League Stats Leaders! (minimum 5 games played)
Points Per Game: Socrate Exama, Smash Bros. - 19.5
Total Points: Tymel Jackson, Goodfellas Socrate Exama, Smash Bros. - 156 (tied)
Tag(s): Home Basketball Winter League Russell Westbrook Division Kristaps Porzingis Division Chubb Thundercats Smash Bros. Mad Hatters New Mutants Ball Don't Lie EZ Plan B The Wolfpack Goodfellas Anytime Bail Bonds Ballers Progressive Probably Hungover Alligators Charliewang Express