Clash of the titans
Today, the NATION’s basketball correspondent Justin Marville previews the Bulls-Warriors first-round series ahead of tomorrow’s start of the Barbados Amateur Basketball Association’s Premier League post-season.
FOR TWO TRADITIONAL POWERS you’d swear a Bulls-Warriors series is a perennial post-season fixture.
Nope. For one reason or another, the sides haven’t met in the play-offs since Warriors’ 2003 championship run, making this year’s match-up a historic one of sorts.
It’s also particularly odd once you consider that the two are similarly constituted, having gone through near identical rebuilding of their rosters through younger players around a veteran superstar.
And that’s just the start of their similarities.
Both are scrappy units that depend on creating turnovers for their transition-based attacks and struggle outside of their respective stars when slowed to play offence in half-court.
But Clapham aren’t as offensively challenged as their Dayrells Road counterparts, whose leading scorer averages just 13 points and feature only three players scoring in double digits – one of which is a rookie.
It would’ve helped if Corey McDonald (11.4 ppg) was . . . you know . . . Corey McDonald, at least the MVP version between 2003 to 2008 that could score 25 points at the drop of a hat, pull down ten rebounds, effectively guard four different positions and routinely pick up senseless technicals.
Well this version still has the ability to rack up the technicals, but the explosive first step is long gone, thus reducing the once multi-skilled forward into a decent jump shooter that can score in short bursts.
Scoring was never Warriors’ identity anyhow, and they’ve put the ball in the basket just enough to win 13 regular season games sharing the load among third-year point guard Tremaine Shaw (13 ppg), Jamar Headley (10.3) and Kareem Farrell (9.9).
Putting up points wasn’t Clapham’s modus operandi either. Well not before, as Bulls found different ways to complement high-scoring guard Jeremy Gill (20 ppg) to lead the league in scoring.
One of those improved options was third-year point guard Rahiim Gibbons (10.2), who showed signs of becoming a more reliable scorer towards the end of the regular season after consistently hitting pull-up jumpers off the dribble.
And speaking of consistency, if Clapham could get anything resembling that from young centre Sean Parris (10.5) in this series, Bulls will be in a good position to advance for the first time since winning it all in 2006.
Warriors: Nicholai Williams. If Warriors hope to beat the favoured Bulls then the gangly forward/centre will have to give the men of Dayrells Road something close to a reliable option in the high post to keep Clapham remotely honest.
He’ll also have his work cut out for him keeping both the bigger Parris and Sydney Rowe from backing him down under the ring while keeping them off the offensive glass.
Bulls: Halley Franklyn/Sydney Rowe. I wasn’t exactly sure who to choose because if any of them fire this will be a very quick series for Warriors. When Franklyn’s jumper is going Bulls are almost impossible to beat as bigger opponents can’t stay in front of the fleet-footed forward when Clapham plays him at the “4” in their small-ball line-ups.
But Rowe could prove equally as problematic for the smaller Williams and Kevin John in the paint should the veteran big man ever find the legs to get off ground and to stay on the floor.
PREDICTION: Bulls in three.
With two elite defences going at it, this is going to be a very ugly series, and that’s how Warriors like it. But their guards are a bit too turnover prone to win a two out of three games against a Bulls team that thrives on scoring off opponent’s misgivings.