We are finally here! After 14 weeks of competition, we have arrived to the PGBL Playoffs. A set of exciting games is upon us, and we here at Mr. PGBL’s Corner are ready to dissect the storylines and the matchups that are in store. Without further ado, let’s just jump right into it:
Quarterfinal Matchup #1: PAS Giannina (3 seed) vs Revolution (6 seed)
The first of our two quarterfinal matchups features last year’s runner up PAS Giannina going up against last year’s surprise semifinalists, the Revolution. On the surface, it looks like Revolution come into this matchup as a significant underdog, as they struggled at times this season. However, PAS was probably hoping to avoid this matchup against their kryptonite in the Revolution. Why do I say this? Well, in both matchups during the season, the Revolution beat PAS twice, while holding them to only 38 points per game, both amazing defensive performances. The Revolution certainly know how to play defense, with potential Defensive Player of the Year Vangeli Carabeses on the perimeter and the looming Vasili Nasis in the low post. The Rev also have multiple players to throw at PAS’s MVP caliber forward, Evan Tsiklidis in the half court defense, should Tsiklidis decide to play iso ball in many of the half court sets. The key for the Revolution to win this game is to play a slow-paced, physical game, keep the score low, and attack in the low post on offense with their size advantage.
PAS, however, is a team that looked like it meant business towards the end of the season, as they rebounded from a poor start to storm to the 3rd seed. It all starts with Tsiklidis, who, despite what the Revolution have shown isn’t one that can be slowed down that easily. We all know about his length, size, and all around offensive game that allows him to get buckets from anywhere on the floor, but his ability to draw multiple defenders and kick to open shooters is where PAS really begins to diversify their offense. For PAS, guys like Dimos Touloumis, Laz Karasavas, and Niko Dinoulis all played very well down the stretch, while shooting well from the perimeter. Because of this, the Revolution would be wise to mix up their double teams and defensive assignments around Tsiklidis. Otherwise, they will have some trouble, because he is quite good at finding the open man. For PAS, if they can come out spacing the floor, with Tsiklidis spearheading the offense as a distributor in an effective drive-and-dish mentality, I believe that they will cause issues for the Revolution, as they will then have to divert their defensive attention to the other PAS players, which can allow Tsiklidis to exploit the individual 1v1 matchups later in the game. On the other end, PAS has enough versatility to be able to switch on most defensive matchups, but could have some issues guarding Nasis down low.
As far as my prediction for this game, it’s a tough one to call. The Rev have had PAS’s number for the whole year, and their defense will keep them in it. However, the Revolution may not be able to put up enough points collectively against PAS, who are a solid defensive team themselves. If Tsiklidis starts knocking down shots, the Rev will be in trouble. The X-factor to all of this will be Vasili Nasis. He’s been in and out this season, but when he gets going on both ends of the floor, he’s a serious matchup problem for anyone trying to defend him in the low post, as he’s the only Rev player that has the ability to match Tsiklidis bucket for bucket. This is gonna definitely be a low scoring game, and it will certainly come down to the final few possessions. But if I had to put my money on it, I think that PAS will be able to squeak it out and avenge their earlier losses.
Prediction: PAS Giannina over Revolution 56-51
Quarterfinal Matchup #2: Warriors (4 seed) vs Kings (5 seed)
The second quarterfinal matchup features two of the classic PGBL teams, with both having won multiple titles in their history in the league, and splitting their two matchups this season. The Kings come in as back to back champs, having won the title last year without the benefit of a bye week, while the Warriors come in having won 5 out of their last 6 games, including a very impressive win over the top seeded Outlaws to hand them their only loss of the season. The Warriors are certainly a well rounded team. Offensively, they primarily like to run the floor, with guards Aris Haritonidis and Spiro Karalis as two of the league’s fastest players. These two can cause havoc with their quick hands and ability to get into the lane off the dribble. However, the Warriors can counter other teams in the low post with pretty good success as well, with forwards Will Galiatsatos and Niko Papatsiaras being able to drop double digit points on any given night. On defense, the Warriors aggressive, pesky style allows them to get a bunch of blocks and steals to try and score easy buckets in transition. The Kings, with their limited depth and their lack of athleticism, will certainly have trouble with the Warriors’ fast style of play.
The Kings, however, have two things going for them that can turn the tide in any matchup: star power and outside shooting. When their whole team is present and available, the Kings have the league’s best offense. Bill Zonios can still hit threes at a prolific rate, and Chris Kourelias is an effective pass first point guard. But the Kings get really dangerous when they have Alex Veronis (2016-17 PGBL Finals MVP) and Niki Veronis (former league MVP) available on the floor, because with that, opposing teams can no longer man mark Zonios to deny him the ball for shooting opportunities. This is because both Veronis boys are so effective in getting to the basket off the dribble. This puts the Warriors in a difficult spot; if they choose to front the Veronis boys with their best defenders and help defense, they leave Zonios more room to shoot. Should they decide to deny Zonios the ball, the Warriors would be vulnerable to dribble penetration.
The keys to this game for both teams are a little simpler relative to the teams involved in the other quarterfinal matchup. For the Warriors, it comes down to forcing turnovers on defense, as they do this better than anyone else in the league. If they can cause havoc on the defensive end and limit Zonios’ perimeter shooting, they will have a great shot at winning this game. For the Kings, it’s availability. The Veronis boys did not play in many games together with the rest of the Kings squad, so their return to the court will come with a little concern. If the Veronis boys can shake off the rust and play the way they’re capable of playing, and Zonios can knock down the 3 ball, the Kings will be just fine. However, the Kings had little issue with rust last year, as they played by far their best game of the season against the Outlaws in the semifinals with all of their players finally healthy and available to play together for the first time that season. For my prediction for this game, I will assume that the Kings will have all hands on deck, and I think they’ll be able to overcome the Warriors’ speed and take home the victory.
Prediction: Kings over Warriors 68-62