Division Championships Preview

Well, here we are at the Drew League Final Four. Hometown Favorites, Birdie’s Revenge, LAUNFD and Houdini’s Problems have beaten all comers to make it to the final week of the 2017 Drew League.

The two teams that win on Saturday will go on to play in the Championship game Sunday afternoon, and one team will have won the most coveted title in Los Angeles sports. Here’s the breakdown, which we’ll keep short because the suspense is already almost too much to handle:

Hometown Favorites vs. LAUNFD

This matchup is intriguing. When these two teams met in the regular season finale, Hometown Favorites were able to hold onto LAUNFD and even led the entire first half of the game. LAUNFD was playing for their playoff lives, and were bolstered by the arrival of crafty veteran point guard Chris Paul.

Meanwhile, Hometown was borderline hamstrung by the relentless chucking of Tim Hardaway Jr., taking valuable shots away from Dorell Wright, the team’s leader and sharpshooter. Hometown’s coach and co-captain Chris Young tells us Hardaway is a probable scratch for Saturday’s rematch, but even if not, a repeat of that stinker of a performance is highly unlikely.

LAU may look a lot different coming into Saturday’s matchup though, as it doesn’t seem like Paul will be returning, which leaves the team with its usual complement of sharpshooting wings, anchored in the middle by 18 year-old man-child Marvin Bagley. Minus James Harden, these teams actually match up well, so his showing up to play — not to mention his in-game performance — will be the X-factor.

LAU would still play with plenty of swagger and ball movement without him, but they would look much more vulnerable and give King Tut and Ghetto Bird a better chance at the title.

Birdie’s Revenge vs. Houdini’s Problems

This rematch of Week 10’s hotly contested and controversial upset will be highly anticipated come Saturday afternoon. Given the frenzy surrounding Jojo Ballestero’s final shot, which left Birdie’s Revenge the last Drew League team with an undefeated record, expect the excitement level in the gym to reach a fever pitch, especially if this one goes down to the wire like the last one did.

Neither Antonio Biglow or Frank Session played particularly well in that game, both coaches told us that their primary defensive strategies going in were to shut down each other’s elite point guard. Their respective performances attest to the wisdom of that strategy. Without Frank Nitty, the Birdies don’t score as much, but when the Swagg Champ plays poorly, the whole Problems offense risks falling apart completely.

While Problems had the advantage of shooters, Birdie’s defensive-minded wings weren’t too keen on letting them actually take those shots. In the end, center Marcus Bell had the greatest impact. Without Deshawn Stephens, Houdini’s surrendered a great deal of size inside, and the 6’9 big man punished them in the paint.

Expect each of these factors to play into Saturday’s rematch, with one big caveat: All eyes will be on the officiating crew, hoping they don’t have as much effect on the outcome as they did in Week 10.