Both games Friday will help determine who will get the second playoff bye and join the undefeated Mob in the semifinals next Thursday, and may also play a role in deciding who gets left out of the postseason altogether. The Wrath and Slashers both need a win in the first game to legitimately hang onto hopes of being the No. 2 seed. In the middle game of the evening, the Buzzsaw will try to maintain a firm grasp on the 2-seed against the one-win Rumble, whose playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. The action at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas begins Friday night at 7:30 p.m. PT /10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+).
AROUND THE LEAGUE
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The playoff puzzle is slowly coming together. The 14-0 Mob will be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and, on August 17, play the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. Three other teams have punched their playoff tickets: Buzzsaw, Wrath and Slashers. One of those three teams will earn the No. 2 seed and the remaining playoff bye. The Buzzsaw have a one-game lead over the Wrath (5-4) and a 1.5-game edge on the Slashers (5-5) for the No. 2 seed and a bye into the semifinals. If Buzzsaw win all four games this week or go 3-1 and the Wrath lose a game, the Buzzsaw will secure the 2-seed. The Buzzsaw have not had a perfect week this season but have gone 3-1 twice. Four teams – Gryphons, Lava, Ozone and Rumble – are battling for the remaining two playoff spots. The 1-6 Rumble cannot earn a playoff berth or be eliminated tonight.
PLAYOFF SEEDING TIEBREAKERS
- Win percentage
- Main Events won
- Head-to-head win percentage
- Point differential
The postseason festivities begin on Tuesday, August 15 with the quarterfinals featuring games between the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds, and the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. Following those contests, fans will be treated to an electrifying slam dunk contest, showcasing eight players in a single-elimination, bracket-style tournament format. On Thursday, August 17, the semifinals will feature the victors from the quarterfinal contests battling the league’s top two seeds. The championship game will follow suit, wherein one team will celebrate by hoisting the coveted Gordon/Tollin Trophy, named in honor of SlamBall’s co-founders Mason Gordon and Mike Tollin.
SlamBall Playoff Schedule:
Tuesday, August 15 – 8:00 p.m. PT (ESPN2)
Quarterfinals: No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 seed
Quarterfinals: No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed
Slam Dunk Contest (8 participants)
Thursday, August 17 – 8:00 p.m. PT (ESPN)
Semifinals: No. 1 seed (Mob) vs. winner of No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed quarterfinal
Semifinals: No. 2 seed vs winner of No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 seed quarterfinal
SlamBall Championship Game
BY THE BOOK: Underdogs have been barking loudly lately. In the last four games that Circa Sports posted odds, underdogs are 2-2 straight up and 3-1 against the spread. In the 10 games that Circa has made lines, dogs are 2-8 SU and 4-6 ATS. Tonight, the Wrath are slight 1.5-point favorites over the Slashers, while the Buzzsaw are giving 10.5 points to the Rumble.
GAME 1: SLASHERS (5-5) vs WRATH (5-4)
ROCK A BYE: The Slashers and Wrath will meet for the first time this season. Despite scuffling a bit lately, both squads have a legitimate chance to earn the second bye into the semifinals. The Slashers have dropped three of their last four games while the Wrath have lost three of their last five contests. The Slashers have made four Main Events, third-most behind the Mob (seven) and Buzzsaw (five) but won it just one time.
HEALTH WATCH: The Wrath are slowly getting healthier. Ty McGee returned last Friday and became the first player with two games of 30-plus points in the same session. Steven Julian, who missed the previous four sessions with an ankle injury, is listed as questionable but is expected to start tonight. In four games, Julian averaged 8.5 points and 8.0 LBRs per game. However, Christian Gray (knee) will miss his fifth consecutive session and Shawn Stith (ankle) will be inactive for the third straight.
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: This game features two of SlamBall’s most prolific scorers– the Wrath’s 6-foot-5 Ty McGee and the Slashers’ 5-foot-6 Tony Crosby II. On Monday, both players made the All-SlamBall team for a second time this season. McGee leads the league with an average of 25.9 PPG. No other player is putting in more than 20 PPG. He also has the most games with 30 or more points with three, including a 45-point outburst that broke the all-time record of Slashers coach Stanley “Shakes” Fletcher (42). (Note: because of a scoring change, McGee is credited with 45 points, not the previously reported 43.) Crosby ranks fourth in the league with an output of 18.8 PPG and has a pair of games with 30 or more points. McGee averages a league-most 7.0 slams per game while Crosby is throwing down 5.1 to rank fourth. McGee and Crosby are not one-trick ponies. McGee is tied for fifth in the league with 5.7 LBRs per game. Despite his size, Crosby tops SlamBall with 35 hits – 13 more than any other player. He also leads the league in offensive Face Offs attempted with 17 (converted 13) and ranks sixth with 2.4 assists per game.
FORWARD SLASH: The Slashers have one of the most explosive and efficient offenses in the league. They rank second in PPG (53.7), field goal percentage (53.7) and hits per game (6.6). On the downside, they have coughed up the ball 14.8 times per contest, the second-most in the league.
GAME 2: RUMBLE (1-6) vs BUZZSAW (7-4)
RUMBLE JUMBLE: Saddled with the league’s worst record at 1-6, the Rumble will need to win at least two games this week to make the playoffs. That will be a tall order considering their two scheduled opponents this week have the two best records in the league. They take on the 7-4 Buzzsaw in tonight’s second game and the 14-0 Mob in the second contest on Saturday. This will be the Rumble’s first encounter with the Buzzsaw. They are 0-2 versus the Mob, losing by 35 and 36 points.
BUZZ AROUND BUZZSAW: With Devonte’ Pratt (ankle) unavailable and Malik Abdul-Haqq (ankle) listed as questionable, the Buzzsaw have added gunner Jace Bass from the reserve list. Bass, who was injured in training camp, has not played this season. His minutes will be limited if he does play tonight. Bass was first team All-South Bay and on the South Bay All-Star Team for Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, Calif. He went on to become a JUCO star at Long Beach City College, leading the team in scoring during the 2018-19 and 2019-2020 seasons, averaging 21.9 PPG and 30.7 PPG, respectively. In nine total games at Louisiana Tech during the 2020-21 season, Bass averaged 3.7 points in 81 total minutes.
OFFENSE SAWING LOGS: The Buzzsaw have been able to rack up wins despite ranking last in the league with 40.3 PPG. Jamaal Barnes Jr. leads the Buzzsaw with an average of 11.5 PPG, which is the lowest for any team leader in the league. The squad has had four different leading scorers in each of their last four games: Barnes, Malik Abdul-Haqq, Ralph Bellamy and Terrell Howard. The Buzzsaw’s offense has been hindered by a lack of efficiency around the hoop and sloppy ball handling. They are the only team with a rim-attack percentage under 50% (46.9) and have committed the most turnovers per game (16.5).
POWER SAW: While the Buzzsaw’s offense has been suspect, the team’s defense has been stout. The Buzzsaw have surrendered just 40.5 PPG, the second-fewest in the league behind only the Mob (32.0). Hernando Plannels Jr.’s club leads SlamBall in steals per game (4.5) and LBRs per game (27.1) while ranking third in stops per contest (8.9). Stopper Tyquan Scott has led the defensive charge, averaging 8.4 stops per game (third in league) and 8.7 LBRs per game (second).
TIPPING POINT: The biggest challenge for Scott and the Buzzsaw defense will be trying to slow down Kaylon Tippins-Hill, the Rumble’s primary offensive threat. Tippins-Hill is second in the league in points per game (19.7) and third in slams per game (5.3).
ROLLING IN THE DEEP: No team loves to shoot from long range more than the Rumble. After finding little success from beyond the arc most of the season, they have hit the mark more recently, particularly when Richard Washington is taking the shot. Washington went 4-for-5 from four-point range against the Gryphons last Friday. For the season, he has made (five) and attempted (28) the most four-pointers in SlamBall. The Rumble’s JaeTuan Williams is tied for the second-most 4s made with four, while attempting 15 bombs, the third-most in the league. As a team, the Rumble have made (12) and tried (68) more 4s than any squad.
GAME 3: Main Event (Game 1 Winner vs Game 2 Winner)