SlamBall returns Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Behind high-flying Tony Crosby II, the Slashers cruised to their first Main Event win over the season on Friday. What will they do for an encore?
AROUND THE LEAGUE
PRIME CUT: Can the Slashers continue their roll? After a quiet start to the season, the Slashers (3-2) made a lot of noise Friday night, winning their first Main Event by dispatching the Rumble (64-56) and Buzzsaw (57-39). The loudest Slasher was diminutive Tony Crosby II, who finished the night with 38 points and 10 dunks in the two victories.
A second straight Main Event featuring the Slashers and the Buzzsaw could be in the offing tonight. The Slashers are red-hot and face the 1-3 Gryphons, while the Buzzsaw, who have the league’s second-best record (4-2), take on the winless Lava (0-3), who may be without their best player, Bryce Moragne (questionable, ankle). Of note, all three Lava losses have been by four points or fewer. If the Slashers win out tonight, they will move to within 1½ games of the Mob (6-0) in the SlamBall standings.
SECOND CITY: So, who fares better in the Main Event – the winner of the first or second game of a session? Through six sessions, the team that wins the second game is 4-2 in the Main Event, including three straight victories. Scoring in the Main Event has been nearly even – 42.5 PPG for Game 1 winners and 43.2 PPG for Game 2 victors.
TOTAL RECALL: SlamBall games are averaging 95.9 total points this season. Seven of the 18 games have gone over the 100-point mark. Rumble games have been the highest-scoring (116.3 total PPG) while contests featuring the Gryphons have generated the fewest total PPG (79.3).
TOTAL POINTS PER GAME, This Season
Rumble – 116.3
Lava – 112.0
Slashers – 110.8
Ozone – 99.1
Mob – 93.0
Wrath – 90.4
Buzzsaw – 82.5
Gryphons – 79.3
GAME 1: BUZZSAW (4-2) vs LAVA (0-3)
LAVA VAMP: The Lava’s quest for their first win of the season may have gotten a lot tougher. Bryce Moragne, the fourth-leading scorer in SlamBall (18.3 PPG), is questionable for tonight’s game with the ankle injury he suffered in Thursday’s loss to the Gryphons. If Moragne can’t go, the Lava will need increased offensive production from Josh Shannon (9.3 PPG), Jihad Shockley (8.7 PPG), Nathaniel Harris (7.3 PPG) and Greg Helt (4.3 PPG).
Despite a goose egg in the win column, the Lava have proven they can pile up points. They are second in the league with an output of 54.7 PPG, trailing only the Mob (58.3). But in tonight’s opener, the Lava must deal with one of SlamBall’s stoutest defenses. The Buzzsaw are surrendering just 39.5 PPG, second-fewest in the league to – you guessed it – the Mob (34.7). The Buzzsaw are 4-0 when holding opponents under 50 points and 2-0 when they allow 50 or more. On the flip side, the Lava are permitting 58.0 PPG, the second-most in SlamBall (Slashers, 58.4).
MAIN LINE: The Buzzsaw have made the Main Event in all three sessions they have played but emerged victorious just once. On Friday against the Slashers, they were blanked 15-0 in the first quarter on their way to a 57-39 setback. Still, at 4-2, the Buzzsaw have the second-best record in SlamBall and are two games behind the undefeated Mob (6-0).
FIT TO BE TY-ED: Buzzsaw stopper Tyquan Scott could make life miserable for the Lava tonight. Scott’s average of 9.0 stops per game ranks second in the league behind only the Mob’s Gage Smith (9.5). Scott has recorded double-digit stops in four of the Buzzsaw’s six outings this season. Scott also ranks second in the league with 37 LBRs (Smith, 54). The Lava’s Faysal “Fessy” Shafaat has been aggressive under the hoop as well, ranking fourth in the league in stops per game (7.7).
NICE SPREAD: Offensively, the Buzzsaw have been spreading the wealth with five players contributing at least 25 points: Jamaal Barnes Jr. (67), Malik Abdul-Haqq (43), Ralph Bellamy (39), DeVonte’ Pratt (32) and Terrell Howard (28). As a team, the Buzzsaw have churned out just 42.8 PPG, which ranks sixth in the league.
SAVING FACE: Abdul-Haqq has excelled on both sides of Face Offs. He has been involved in the most defensively (six) but also saved the most (four). On the offensive end, he has cashed in on five of seven FO attempts, good for 71.4%, tying for the third-best rate in the league for players with two or more attempts.
BOMBS AWAY: Perimeter shooting is one area where the Lava might have an advantage Saturday night. The Lava lead the league in four-pointers made (four) and four-point percentage (26.7, 4-15). The Buzzsaw, on the other hand, have struggled mightily from long range, making just one of 16 shots from beyond the arc for a league-low 6.3%. The Lava rank second in the league in overall field goal percentage (53.1), trailing only the Slashers (56.4).
WRONG TURN: The Buzzsaw have often been their own worst enemy, leading the league with an average of 17.7 turnovers per game. The Lava have given the ball away 14.7 times per outing, the third-fewest in SlamBall.
GAME 2: GRYPHONS (1-3) VS SLASHERS (3-2)
KING CROSBY: Slashers 5-6 gunner Tony Crosby II stood tall on Friday night, leading his squad to a win in the Main Event. His 26 points in the opener against the Rumble tied for the fifth-most in a game this season and featured six dunks, one seemingly more creative than the next. His 14.4 PPG this season ranks fifth in the league, while his 20 dunks are the third-most, behind only the Wrath’s Ty McGee (30) and Mob’s Darius Clark (25). Crosby is a facilitator as well, assisting on 11 buckets, tying for fifth in the league.
TONY CROSBY II, This Season
PPG – 14.4 (5th in league)
Dunks – 20 (3rd in league)
Assists – 11 (T-5th in league)
STRAIGHT FACE: Crosby is a marked man. His 10 Face Off attempts are three more than any other player in SlamBall, and his six converted FOs are tied with the Gryphon’s Justin Holmes for the most. As for Holmes, he is a perfect 6-for-6 on his Face Offs, joining Clark (4-for-4) as the only players with more than two attempts without a miss.
SLASH AND CASH: The Slashers are running one of the most efficient offenses in the league. They lead the league with a 56.5 field goal percentage. They have also made good on 60.4% of their rim attacks, ranking second in SlamBall to the Lava (64.7). Stanley “Shakes” Fletcher’s club has churned out 52.4 PPG, third-most in the league.
FULL STOP: Both teams have a fierce presence underneath the hoop. Slashers stopper Amir Smith ranks fifth in the league with an average of 7.0 stops per contest. But don’t forget about him at the other end of the court. His 29 points are the second-most among all stoppers, trailing only the Mob’s Gage Smith (32). Smith has tallied at least six points in four of the Slashers’ five outings. Gryphons stopper Connor Hollenbeck is no slouch himself. Hollenback is third in the league with an average of 8.3 stops per game.
POINT BLANK: After opening the season with two losses, the Gryphons showed some signs of life on Thursday night. They took down the Lava, 47-45 in the evening’s opener and then led 15-0 in the Main Event against the Mob before wilting in a 44-31 setback. How will they respond to that meltdown? Scoring more would certainly help. The Gryphs are the only team in the league that has not scored at least 50 points in a game this season. They rank last in the league with an output of 36.3 PPG. Holmes (12.0 PGG) and KyShawn Jones (11.0) are the team’s top two scoring options.
GAME 3: MAIN EVENT (Winner of Game 1 vs Winner of Game 2)