Category: Mr. PGBL’s Corner

2018-19 PGBL Semifinal Recaps, Finals Preview

We have finally arrived! After a long season of great game action, we have narrowed it down to the league’s two best teams duking it out for the final prize! Both the Outlaws and the Tune Squad took care of business in the semifinals to earn the right to go head to head for the championship. Before we preview the final game, let’s go over how the semifinal games went:

Semifinal #1:

Outlaws 88 Warriors 62

The Outlaws came out dominant in this first semifinal, not allowing rust or revenge to cloud their minds and inhibit their play, as they cruised to a wire to wire win over the Warriors to book their place in the final. The Outlaws came out blitzing in the first half, in pure attack mode in their shot selection and on the boards. The Outlaws’ interior game, typically a weakness on an otherwise fantastic team, was an absolute strength in this game. The strong rebounding from Pete Kada and Stephen Thomas allowed the Outlaws to take advantage of the two elements of the game that they excel best at: second chance scoring opportunities and running in transition. This was obvious and apparent in the first half, as the Outlaws quickly built up a 20+ point lead by halftime and never got close to relinquishing it. Laz Makrides led the way with 26 points and looked locked in from the start. These Outlaws played like champions, and now, they only need to replicate this marvelous performance one more time to secure the title. As for the Warriors, their tremendous run to end of the year came to a screeching halt, as they struggled out of the gate in the first half. With the Outlaws running and gunning while also dominating the boards, the Warriors couldn’t get into a groove with their motion offense and their pressure D. The second half saw the Warriors find their scoring touch, but by then, it was too little too late. Fortunately for the Warriors, they’ll be a year more seasoned and more experienced by next season, and they certainly have the chemistry and athleticism to do some more damage next season. Adding another big man or a sharpshooter could certainly put them over the top.

Semifinal #2:

Tune Squad 73 PAS Giannina 66

The other semifinal featured a much closer encounter, with both teams trading blows until the very end. Tune Squad came out swinging, as they scored the first dozen points of the game before PAS could even blink. However, PAS gathered themselves, slowed the game down, and made the necessary adjustments to counterpunch Tune Squad right back, as they clawed to within two points late in the first half. However, a couple of long ball 3s from Demetri Zanikos and Ben Voudouris allowed Tune Squad to restore their double digit lead at the tail end of the first half, swinging the momentum right back to the 2nd seeded Tune Squad. In the 2nd half, with a relatively comfortable lead in hand, Tune Squad then began to use PAS’ strategy against them, as they slowed the game down and took opportune attempts at the basket while limiting PAS’ outside shooting on the other end. This strategy ran smoothly through the direction of Louie Karapanagiotides, the Tune Squad’s rigid, cerebral, and always steady point guard. Louie did a little bit of everything, as he directed the offense from the point while also scoring 18 points, and the rest of his teammates followed suit to allow the Tune Squad to outlast PAS and advance to the final. As for PAS, it was a second straight year in which they made a deep playoff run, and they played better and better as the season went on. I had initially picked them to finish last in the league this year, but they made me eat my words as they bounced back from their poor start to finish as the #3 seed and just a couple of buckets away from another appearance in the championship game. If they can add a couple younger, more athletic 3 and D players to their already deep roster, they’ll certainly be back next season to challenge for the title.

FINALS PREVIEW

Outlaws vs Tune Squad

After all of the games and all the action, we are left with the league’s clear two best teams. Both teams love to run, love to shoot the 3 ball, somewhat lack on the interior, and have versatile individual players on the perimeter. For the Outlaws, when they are slowed down in the run and gun offense, they typically like to exploit individual defensive matchups by leaning on the trio of versatile star forward Laz Makrides, sharpshooting combo guard Jimmie Armentani, and bruising forward Pete Kada, as all three have the handles to create their own shot in the paint and all can shoot the 3 ball. As one man drives to the bucket, the others typically stand on the perimeter to take advantage of the collapsing defense and hit the open three pointer. The Tune Squad defenders will have to be on their toes all game in their individual matchups, as they Outlaws will cause them problems if they are not careful. The Tune Squad will additionally have to keep an eye out for pick and rolls, as these allow the Outlaws to further exploit individual matchups. Defensively, the Outlaws like to play just as aggressively, as they like to limit the 3 ball and jump into passing lanes and shot attempts, hoping to create blocks and steals to further fuel their transition game. Their length will cause problems for the Tune Squad, whose personnel somewhat lacks length (relatively speaking).

However, if there is any team that is best equipped to counter the onslaught of the Outlaws, it is certainly the Tune Squad. They are quick, athletic, deep, and are fantastic in their ball movement on offense, which can certainly neutralize the Outlaws and their desire to jump every passing lane. Sharpshooters Ben Voudouris and Demetri Zanikos can also match the Outlaws bucket to bucket in their 3 point attempts. Defensively, the Tune Squad will have to be able to switch every assignment. But theoretically, a 4 guard lineup of Louie Karapanagiotides, Zanikos, Stef Grigorakakis, and Alexi Topalidis, grouped with the lanky Chris Voutsakis as a small ball center, can certainly do this, as all 5 have quick feet, long arms, and excellent anticipation skills. The 6′ 3″ Voutsakis will be the X-factor for sure, as he is perhaps the only guy in the league that can match up inch for inch and pound for pound with Makrides, who stands at least 6’5″ tall. If Voutsakis is able to neutralize Makrides, the Outlaws will be in some trouble, thus placing more of the playmaking burden on Armentani, who thrives more as a scoring machine rather than a distributor.

As far as the game goes, I can almost certainly say that it will be an offensive shootout, with plenty of three pointers, slick passing, and breakaways. I would not be fooled by the Outlaws’ two dominant wins over the Tune Squad in the regular season, as the Tune Squad did not have all of their available players. When all hands are on deck, these two teams are so evenly matched that I believe this game to be a coin flip. Unfortunately, as Mr. PGBL, I have to make a prediction. And to me, when all hands are on deck for both teams, I believe the Tune Squad to be slightly deeper and slightly more athletic, and I believe that they can match the Outlaws bucket for bucket, slow down Makrides (at least slightly), and squeak it out to win the title.

Prediction: Tune Squad over Outlaws 78-75

2018-19 PGBL Quarterfinal Recaps; Semifinal Previews

Quarterfinals Game 1:

Warriors 95 Kings 85

The first quarterfinal matchup saw an offensive explosion, as the Warriors and Kings traded bucket after bucket all the way throughout the game in an instant classic, with the Warriors pulling out a fantastic victory. The Warriors utilized a fantastic strategy throughout the game on both ends of the floor, starting off on defense by focusing their attention on Kings star Bill Zonios, limiting him to only 15 points and two three pointers, significantly below his regular season averages. On offense, Warriors utilized their speed to get plenty of buckets in transition, while seamlessly finding the open man in a motion-happy offense. Co-point guards Spiro Karalis and Aris Haritonidis ran the show, dropping plenty of assists while each chipping in 16 points, but it was Niko Papatsiaras who went off from the field. Papatsiaras picked a great time to score his season high 35 points, including 6 made three pointers. The always steady Will Galiatsatos also added double digits in points.

The Kings, however, kept the game very tight and competitive as they typically do, as their explosive, three point happy offense kept pace with the Warriors for the majority of the game. With the Warriors focusing on Zonios, Kings point guard Chris Kourelias had a fantastic evening scoring the basketball, pouring in seven three pointers and 45 points, a league high this season. It was a remarkable display of offense from Kourelias, who typically plays as the solid, pass first point guard that spearheads the Kings offense. The Kings performance on offense was made even more impressive by the fact that they played shorthanded, missing both Alex and Niki Veronis. It was definitely a worthy performance from the defending champs, who despite being eliminated, will certainly be back to challenge for the title next season and keep the dynasty going. As for the Warriors, they will continue their run on Thursday, February 28th in a rematch against the top seeded Outlaws, whose only loss of this season came against these Warriors, who seem to be turning it on at the exact right time.

Leading Scorers:

Warriors:

Niko Papatsiaras: 35 points

Aris Haritonidis and Spiro Karalis: 16 points each

Will Galiatsatos: 15 points

Kings:

Chris Kourelias: 45 points

Bill Zonios: 15 points

Dean Kosiras: 12 points

Quarterfinals Game 2

PAS Giannina 61 Revolution 45

The Revolution pulled off two wins vs PAS in the regular season, but the third time was not the charm, as PAS put together a solid and complete team performance on both ends of the floor, getting their revenge with a near wire to wire double digit victory. PAS’ excellent team defense was on full display in this game, as they held the Rev to only 16 first half points. PAS also managed to dominate the interior and on the boards, keeping the Revolution from coming back into the game with second chance points. Evan Tsiklidis led the way on offense for PAS, as he usually does, scoring 28 points by his typical fashion: doing a great job of getting to his spot in the midrange game, and using his length to exploit his matchups in the low post. Argyris Dritselis certainly did his part on offense, hitting 4 of his three point attempts in a solid scoring performance of his own.

The Revolution struggled to get going collectively on offense, as their top 2 scorers from the regular season were unable to get going. But Jake Sotiros did all that he could to power his team past PAS’ suffocating defense. Sotiros had a fantastic game, scoring his season high 27 points from an array of shots all over the floor. It was a tough performance on offense for the Revolution, but they kept themselves in it with their own great defending. One of the hardest working teams in the league, they’ll be back next season to compete for a title. As for PAS, they’ll look to book their ticket to the PGBL Finals on February 28th when they take on the #2 seeded Tune Squad.

SEMIFINALS PREVIEW:

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

Game 1: Warriors vs Outlaws

This first semifinal matchup will certainly have some added intrigue to it, as the Outlaws will look to get some revenge on the Warriors for snapping their PGBL record 18 game regular season winning streak. These two teams are similar in their run and gun offensive styles, but they differ in their personnel. As we know, the Outlaws are loaded up on talent, especially on the perimeter, with swingmen Pete Kada and the MVP-caliber Laz Makrides, and combo guard Jimmie Armentani. Any of these guys can go for 30 points on any given night. Meanwhile, Stephen Thomas provides the low post presence that the Outlaws were somewhat lacking last season. To beat the Warriors, the Outlaws will look to stick to their typical game plan: run the floor, shoot 3 pointers, and exploit the individual matchups.

The Warriors personnel, while somewhat lacking in star power, make up for it with depth, blazing speed, and unmatched hustle and endurance. With Spiro Karalis and Ari Haritonidis co-running the point, and Niko Papatsiaras on the wing, the Warriors can cause havoc in transition and in their perimeter defending, while also getting solid offensive contributions. However, I believe that the key to this game for the Warriors lies in their interior, where they caused significant problems for the Outlaws in the previous matchup with their tough, physical play. Will Galiatsatos and Ilias Kaltisidis are two players who cannot be pushed around, and their rebounding and interior defense payed huge dividends for the Warriors in their defending of Stephen Thomas and Laz Makrides this season.

As for my prediction, it will certainly be an entertaining game, as both teams love to run up and down the floor. The Warriors are going to make it very tough on the Outlaws, as they are the team best equipped defensively to neutralize the Outlaws’ perimeter shooting and run and gun transition offense. However, I would be lying if I said that the Warriors weren’t aided by the Outlaws’ horrible shooting night from 3 in the previous matchup. I’m not sure if I can see it happening again, as the Outlaws shoot the ball exceptionally well on most nights, and are too talented to brick so many threes this time. This game will definitely be close, and I won’t be surprised if the Warriors can beat the Outlaws again, especially considering how well the Warriors have been playing. However, the Outlaws are out for revenge, and I think they’ll bring that added intensity to book their place in the final.

Prediction: Outlaws over Warriors 73-65

Game 2: PAS Giannina vs Tune Squad

The other semifinal matchup features last season’s runner up in PAS, going up against the upstart, expansion Tune Squad, who I believe is the league’s most complete team. With star point guard Louie Karapanagiotides, the versatile Chris Voutsakis, scoring machines Ben Voudouris and Demetri Zanikos, and defensive pests Alexi Topalidis, Stef Grigorakakis and Ari Raptis, the Tune Squad can put out a tremendous 5 man lineup while also having great depth coming off the bench. Their only particular issue this season, much like the Kings, has been availability for games. But in the games when they’ve all played together, it’s been quite good to watch. PAS typically likes to play a slow and physical game, as they make up for their lack of athleticism with sound defending, good ball movement, and opportune shooting. Thus, I believe that the Tune Squad should try and get their transition game going to score some easy points if they hope to overcome PAS.

PAS, as I just said before, plays a slow, physical game, but they like to space the floor on offense, relying on dribble-drive penetration from Evan Tsiklidis in hopes that defenses collapse and that open shooters have their space to shoot in rhythm. With Argyris Dritselis, Laz Karasavas, and Niko Dinoulis all being capable 3 and D players, they complement Tsiklidis perfectly. PAS will certainly be able to beat the Tune Squad should they decide to keep the game slow and low scoring, and it’ll definitely help if Tsiklidis goes for 30+ points.

As for my prediction, I believe that versatility is the key to who wins the game. To me, the Tune Squad is more equipped for this. They can switch every defensive assignment, score from inside and out, and have the muscle (Raptis and Voutsakis in particular, to physically match with PAS. PAS will keep the game close with their style of play and excellent defending, but I think that the Tune Squad will pull away at the tail end to book their place in the final. However, this prediction hinges on whether or not all their players will be available. That remains to be seen, but I’m assuming that they”ll be there.

Prediction: Tune Squad over PAS 61-56

2018-19 PGBL Quarterfinal Predictions

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