After Friday afternoon’s sizzling session, SlamBall returns Saturday at 4 p.m. PT/7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN+ with two more intriguing matchups. In the opener, the Buzzsaw and Slashers meet for a third time with playoff positioning at stake. Then, the Mob put their perfect record on the line against a red-hot KyShawn Jones and the Gryphons. Two more wins will give the Mob a dozen to start SlamBall’s relaunch season.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
LATE-GAME RULE ADJUSTMENT: SlamBall has tweaked its “Break It, Take It” rule, which allows the defense to foul a player in the last 20 seconds of regulation and take possession of the ball by winning the subsequent Face Off. Beginning today, to be eligible for the Face Off, the fouling team must be within eight points of their opposition with between 11 and 20 seconds remaining in regulation and within four points with 10 seconds or fewer left.
BY THE BOOK: Circa Sports has posted odds for the first two games today. In the opener, the Buzzsaw are 4.5-point favorites over the Slashers. In the middle game of the day, the Mob are laying 16.5 points against the Gryphons. In the four previous games that Circa listed odds, favorites went 4-0 straight up and 3-1 against the spread. The Gryphons were the only team that did not cover, beating the Rumble by three points in overtime on Friday as 6.5-point favorites.
MATINEE MAGIC: Friday’s SlamBall session provided an abundance of afternoon fireworks. The opener between the Gryphons and Rumble ended with the first overtime game of the season. The Gryphs emerged victorious when Justin Holmes made a stop on a defensive Face Off and then slammed home the game-winner when he moved to offense. For the first time this season, all three games in a session were decided by 10 or fewer points. It was also the first session in which every game had 100 or more combined points. The three contests averaged 124.7 total points, easily outdistancing the previous top-scoring session of 112.2 total PPG on July 22. This season, there have been six individual games with 30 or more points and Friday produced half of them: Gryphons’ KyShawn Jones (37 points vs. Wrath) and Wrath’s Ty McGee (34 points vs. Lava and 31 points vs. Gryphons).
GAME 1: BUZZSAW (5-3) vs SLASHERS (5-4)
THIRD DEGREE: The third clash this season between the Buzzsaw and Slashers is dripping with playoff-seeding implications. The first two teams in the standings get a bye and a ticket to the semifinals. The Buzzsaw enter the day in the No. 2 position behind the 10-0 Mob, while the Slashers are in the fourth spot but just one game behind their opening opponent today. The Buzzsaw and Slashers split two previous meetings, with both coming in Main Events last week. On July 28, the Slashers led 15-0 after the first quarter and cruised to a 57-39 victory. The next day, the Buzzsaw got their revenge, winning 50-41 behind 20 points from Jamaal Barnes Jr.
OPPOSITES ATTRACT: If styles make fights, then this battle should be an entertaining one. The Slashers are a free-wheeling bunch, while the Buzzsaw play things closer to the vest. Stanley Fletcher’s Slashers are averaging 52.9 PPG, which ranks second in SlamBall to the Mob (59.0), but are permitting 56.3 PPG, the third-highest rate in the league. Slashers’ games are producing 109.2 total PPG, the third-most in the league (Rumble-114.5, Ozone-109.3). Meanwhile, games involving Hernando Plannel Jr.’s Buzzsaw are averaging a league-low 81.0 PPG. The Buzzsaw rank last in PPG (41.0) but second in PPG allowed (40.0).
EVENT HORIZON: These two teams are Main Event regulars. The Buzzsaw have advanced to the Main Event in four of their five previous sessions and the Slashers have done so in their last three. The Buzzsaw are 2-2 in Main Events while the Slashers are 1-3, beating only the Buzzsaw last Friday. Opponents have managed to slow down Slashers gunner Tony Crosby II in Main Events, where he is averaging 11.5 PPG. Crosby is churning out 24.6 PPG in the first game of a session.
TONY TIME: Tony Crosby II has been fearless around players a foot taller than he is, whether in the open court or in the scoring zone. The 5-foot-6 Crosby leads SlamBall in dunks (46), hits (32, twice as many as the next player) and offensive Face Offs attempted (17) and made (13). He ranks fifth in both PPG (19.8) and APG (2.3). Crosby has scored at least 26 points in a game in each of the Slashers’ last three sessions.
MUSCLE KAR: With the Slashers using Amir Smith more on the offensive end of the court, Nathan Karsjens, a former Western Illinois tight end and long snapper, has had an opportunity to shine on defense. Karsjens led the Slashers in stops in each of their last three outings (22 total). Karsjens is also the Slashers’ designated sharpshooter, launching a team-most 11 four-pointers, making three (tied for third-most in the league).
STOP SIGN: Tyquan Scott, the reigning Defensive Player of the Week, has been a force for the Buzzsaw all season. He has racked up double-digit stops in six of his team’s nine games, and is second in the league with an average of 8.8 rejections per game (Lava’s Faysal Shafaat, 9.0). Scott also ranks second in the league with 7.8 LBRs per game, trailing only the Mob’s Gage Smith (9.0).
MISSING THE POINT: The Buzzsaw’s poor shooting finally caught up with them in Thursday’s 53-30 loss to the Mob. In that game, the Buzzsaw shot a dismal 12-of-32 (37.5%) from the field, including 12-of-27 on rim attacks and 6-of-15 on layups. For the season, the Buzzsaw rank seventh in FG percentage (41.1) and last in rim-attack percentage (46.7). The Slashers, on the other hand, are second in FG% (54.7) and third in RA% (58.4).
TURN, TURN, TURN: These two teams have had issues with ball security this season. The Buzzsaw have committed a league-most 16.3 turnovers per game, while the Slashers have coughed the ball up 14.9 times per contest, the third-most. On the bright side, the Buzzsaw lead SlamBall with 4.8 steals per game and are second with 26.4 LBRs per outing (Rumble, 26.8).
GAME 2: MOB (10-0) vs GRYPHONS (2-5)
PITCH PERFECT: The Mob’s pursuit of a 16-0 regular season resumes today. On Thursday night, the Mob won by 23 and 20 points in victories over the Buzzsaw and Slashers, respectively. In the first half of those games, the Mob held a slight 39-37 advantage but exploded after the intermission, outscoring the opposition 70-31. Mob coach Brendan Kirsch was pleased with how his team responded in the second half of those contests. “We’ve been challenged in the first half,” Kirsch said. “It’s just that with the system that we run, it really wears teams down in the second half. So, I think what you’ve seen is a lot of teams have played us tough in the first half and then they’re just gassed. We have better conditioning in the second half and our system is kind of like Novocain. It might take a while sometimes, but it’s going to work every time.”
FLASH MOB: The Mob have won each game this season by at least 13 points, seven by 20 and four by 35-plus. The Mob have outscored teams by a combined 262 points. The only other squad in the league with a positive scoring differential is the Buzzsaw, who are +9. The Mob lead SlamBall in PPG (59.0), PPG allowed (32.8) and PPG differential (26.2).
TAKE 2: The Gryphons gave the Mob one of their biggest scares of the season in their previous meeting on July 27. The Gryphons jumped out to a 15-0 lead but it quickly evaporated. The Mob outscored the Gryphs 44-16 the rest of the way en route to a 44-31 win. Cam Hollins posted a game-high 18 points while Gage Smith contributed 11 stops and 10 LBRs.
SAVING FACE: Justin Holmes has emerged as the league’s preeminent Face Off specialist, both offensively and defensively. His Face Off acumen was on full display in overtime of the Gryphons’ 60-57 victory over the Rumble on Friday afternoon. Holmes rejected Tamyrik Fields’ FO attempt and then dunked over Fields when it was his turn on offense, lifting his squad to their second victory of the season. Holmes is now a perfect 9-for-9 (100%) on offensive Face Offs and 4-for-5 (80%) on defense. Those are the league’s best percentages in both categories. Darius Clark (4-for-4) of the Mob is the only other player with more than two FO attempts without a miss.
A-OH-KAY: Can Gage Smith and the Mob slow down KyShawn Jones? Nobody else has been able to lately. Jones has scored at least 24 points in each of his last three games. On Friday, Jones scored 66 total points in two games, the most by a player in a session this season. That included a 37-point outburst against the Wrath, the third-highest-scoring individual effort of the season. Jones comes into Saturday ranked fourth in PPG (19.1), fifth in dunks (32) and second in hits (16).
MR. GIMME THAT: Speaking of Gage Smith, he continues to be SlamBall’s most productive all-around performer. Smith is third in the league in stops per game (8.7), first in LBRs per game (9.0), first in steals (16) and fifth in FG% (64.3). Seeing more time on offense recently, Smith has tallied at least 10 points in three of his last four games. He leads all stoppers with an average of 7.9 PPG.
STOP GAP: Gryphons stopper Connor Hollenbeck, who is seventh in the league with 6.0 stops per game, suffered an ankle injury in Friday’s first game and did not return. Backup stopper Matt Wilkerson has put his massive 6-7, 270-pound frame to good use in the Gryphs’ last three games, amassing 24 stops, including 12 in a Main Event loss to the Wrath on Friday. Wilkerson will start for the Gryphs against the Mob today.
DAC IS BACK: After missing three games with a bruised sternum, Mob gunner Darius Clark returned to the court on Thursday and made an immediate impact. He had 27 points in the two games, including a team-most 18 in the Main Event win over the Slashers. Clark ranks sixth in the league in PPG (18.4) and third in slams per game (5.3).
GAME 3: Main Event (Game 1 Winner vs Game 2 Winner)