Week 9 Preview

We have reached do or die time, people.

The 8-seed in the Hank Salvatori Division is wide open, with Pandas, COA, and Jaguars scrapping for that final slot. Meanwhile, over on the Marty Waltzer side, teams are experiencing a similar traffic jam with NWA, Ascension and New Edition all in the mix for the last couple of playoff spots.

Down there at the bottom of both divisions, #Juglife and EPX Spirit are perfectly content to play spoilers, while trying to put up enough late wins on the season to end 2017 with a more respectable record than 1-11 — which Spirit is in extreme danger of actually doing, just one year removed from their last playoff appearance.

Last week saw some real duels, including an MHP-New Edition face off that saw MHP finally pull themselves out of their recent slump, but only after the team’s beating heart, Victor Rudd, returned to help them finish off a feisty New Edition team led by Baron Davis — who shot his team out of the game after being turned into highlight fodder by Swaggy P Nick Young’s mean crossover.

But this week, the only matchup anybody at the Drew wants to talk about is the one between undefeated Houdini’s Problems and similarly perfect Birdie’s Revenge. Both teams’ success have been driven by their dynamic, human-highlight-reel point guard. The Swagg Champ, Antonio Biglow, throws flashy passes to his teammates after dazing defenders with his dazzling handles; Franklin “Nitty” Session skies over opponents in the paint, creating posters and viral highlights with his absolutely lethal first step.

The similarities don’t stop at their records and leadership, either. Both teams feature big bruisers on the inside — Deshawn Stephens for Problems and Marcus Bell for Revenge — and punishing defense. The ball might just get stuck at half-court for the whole game, with both teams being so singularly focused on forcing turnovers.

The difference might just come from the three-point arc. While Birdie’s Revenge’s shooting has been as off-and-on as player/coach The Game’s, Problems specifically took steps early on to address this weakness that has plagued coach Allen Caveness since before Houdini’s All-Stars’ championship season in 2014.

Adding long-distance snipers BJ Johnson and Steve Alford to Garrett Nevels, and encouraging Corey Allen and Biglow to shoot more, Problems has become a force to be reckoned with from outside. Birdie’s complement of guards will have to keep them off the arc to give themselves a chance to keep up.

Some other games to watch this week: Clozers vs. LA Loop; MHP vs. NWA; Blazers vs. Ascension; Redemption vs. MHP; and BB4L vs. Pandas. Each of these games will have big implications for the playoffs, which are now just two weeks away. Batten down the hatches, gang.

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