SlamBall returns Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 with the most enticing matchup of the season. Can the red-hot Buzzsaw hand the Mob their first loss of the season? Will the Slashers’ Tony Crosby II and Ozone’s Keith McGee keep piling up the points? Let’s dive into the storylines …
AROUND THE LEAGUE
YOU BETCHA: Circa Sports, a Founding Partner of SlamBall, became the first Nevada sportsbook to post SlamBall game odds today. In the first matchup, the Mob opened as 12.5-point favorites over the Buzzsaw. On the money line, the Mob opened at +450 while Buzzsaw were +350. In the second game tonight, the Slashers opened at -7.5 against the Ozone. On the money line, the Slashers are -240 and Ozone are +195.
“Today marks a monumental day for SlamBall,” said SlamBall creator and CEO Mason Gordon. “Since the relaunch was announced, not a day has passed that I haven’t been asked numerous times about when fans could bet on our games. I am thrilled that today is that day. We couldn’t be more delighted that Circa, the most respected sportsbook in the country, is the first operator in Nevada to offer SlamBall odds. And this is just the beginning. We have always believed that SlamBall is an ideal fit for sports betting, both pre-game and in-game. This presents a fantastic opportunity to meet the desires of our passionate fanbase. The future of SlamBall looks incredibly promising as it takes its place in the ever-evolving sports betting landscape. We couldn’t be more excited.”
TOTAL RECALL: SlamBall contests are averaging 96.3 total points. Main Event scoring is much lower, going in at just 86.9 total points for those eight games. Last weekend brought both the highest-scoring game of the season – 131 points in Rumble’s 66-65 win over the Ozone on Sunday – and the lowest – 61 points for the Buzzsaw’s 32-29 victory over the Lava on Saturday. Nine of the 24 games this year have reached the century mark. Three teams’ games are averaging 100 or more points: Rumble (114.0), Slashers (108.9) and Ozone (105.4). Contests involving the Buzzsaw have produced the fewest total points per game (80.8).
TOTAL POINTS PER GAME, This Season
Rumble – 114.0
Slashers – 108.9
Ozone – 105.4
Lava – 99.8
Mob – 92.8
Wrath – 91.2
Gryphons – 86.8
Buzzsaw – 80.8
FLASH POINTS: SlamBall games are getting more competitive, at least when the Mob are not playing. The average margin of victory this season is 15.9 PPG. But contests not involving the Mob (plus-27.4 PPG differential) have a 10.2 PPG margin of victory. In the first week of the season, there were just three games decided by fewer than 10 points. That number doubled to six in Week 2, including the year’s first one-point game.
BY THE NUMBERS: At the halfway point of the regular season, let’s look at what we’ve witnessed so far …
2,312 – Points Scored
1,299 – Rim Attacks
735 – Field Goals Made
541 – Slam Dunks
413 – Stops
238 – Hits
157 – 4-Pointers Attempted (22 made)
140- Face Offs (Offense-82, Defense-58)
THURSDAY, AUGUST 3
GAME 1: MOB (8-0) vs BUZZSAW (5-3)
BATTLE OF THE TITANS: Taking center stage in Thursday night’s first game is the long-awaited clash between the undefeated Mob (8-0) and the surging Buzzsaw (6-2) – the teams with the two best records in the league. The Mob have not been seriously challenged this season, winning every game by at least 13 points and half their games by 35-plus points. The Buzzsaw come in hot, winning their second Main Event of the season on Saturday night. One of these teams will miss the Main Event for the first time this season.
SETTLING A SCORE: The Mob (+219) and Buzzsaw (+32) are the only two teams in the league with a positive scoring differential. The Mob have excelled on both ends of the court, leading SlamBall in both points per game (60.1) and points per game allowed (32.8). The Buzzsaw’s calling card has been their defense. They are second in the league in PPG allowed (38.4) but rank seventh in scoring with an output of 42.4 PPG. In their six wins, the Buzzsaw have held the opposition to 41 or fewer points; they permitted 50 or more in their two setbacks. The Mob have permitted 36 or fewer points in all but one game and scored 60 or more in five of their eight outings.
HOT SHOTS: The Mob have showcased SlamBall’s most efficient offense, while the Buzzsaw still have work to do on the side of the court. The Mob lead the league in field goal percentage (56.5) and are second in rim attack percentage (59.3). On the other hand, the Buzzsaw are seventh in FG% (41.6) and last in rim attack efficiency (47.0). The Buzzsaw’s overall FG percentage is being dragged down by ice-cold 1-for-23 shooting from 4-point range. The Mob are 1-for-8 from beyond the arc.
TURN OF EVENTS: Ball handling also favors the Mob, who are averaging two more assists per game (9.9) than any other team while committing the fewest turnovers per outing (9.4). The Mob are the only team with more assists than turnovers, and no other squad is even close. The Buzzsaw have been turnover machines, giving the ball away a league-most 16.5 times per contest. They rank fifth in assists per game (4.5). That -12.0 assists-to-turnover differential per game is the worst in the league.
DAC STATUS: Darius “DAC” Clark, who is second in the league in PPG (20.4), missed the Mob’s last three games with a bruised sternum and is listed as questionable for Thursday night’s action. Clark made the All-SlamBall team Week 1. Despite missing time, Clark ranks fourth in the league with 30 dunks. He’s a perfect 4-for-4 on Face Offs this season. The only player with more FO attempts without a miss is the Gryphons’ Justin Holmes, who is 7-for-7.
DUAL-CAM ATTACK: The Mob’s two Cams – gunner Cam Hollins and handler Cameron Horton – have played a huge part in the Mob’s blazing start. With Darius Clark sidelined on Sunday, Hollins picked up the scoring slack. In fact, he single-handedly outscored the opposition 55 to 54 in his team’s two contests. In the four wins last week, Hollins averaged 20.3 PPG, dunked 25 times and made good on 28-of-40 rim attacks. Little wonder he was named SlamBall’s Offensive Player of the Week. Horton has been the league’s preeminent facilitator, leading the league with an average of 4.3 assists per contest. In Sunday’s Main Event victory over the Rumble, Horton had nine dimes, the most by any player in a game this season.
MOB ENFORCER: Mob stopper Gage Smith is regarded as one of the league’s best defenders, but he has shown several times this year that he can be a force on the opposite end of the court, something we may see more of with backup stopper Dionte Byrd getting healthier. In Sunday’s two blowout wins, Smith scored 25 points and was 9-of-12 on rim attacks. For the season, Smith has tallied 61 points, the most by any stopper in the league. Still, Smith’s work under the opponent’s hoop is a major reason the Mob have the league’s stingiest defense. He ranks second in SlamBall in stops per game (8.9) while ranking first in LBRs per contest (8.5) and total steals (14).
GREAT SCOTT: The Buzzsaw have a dominating defender of their own in Tyquan Scott, who was named SlamBall’s Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. In Week 2, Scott was credited with 30 stops, 33 loose ball recoveries and four steals. One of those steals was clearly more important than the others. With the score tied in the closing seconds of Saturday’s game against the Lava, Scott swiped the ball, setting set the stage for Jamaal Barnes Jr.’s thunderous game-winning slam with 10.8 seconds showing on the clock. For the season, Scott ranks third in stops/game (8.6) and second in LBR/game (7.4).
BARN BURNER: For the Buzzsaw to keep pace with the Mob Thursday night, they will likely need to give Jamaal Barnes Jr. some help on offense. Barnes (13.9 PPG) is the only Buzzsaw player averaging more than 7 PPG. The Mob have five players with scoring averages that high. The Buzzsaw have gotten double-digit points in at least one game from Ralph Bellamy, Malik Abdul-Hawk and Devonte’ Pratt. One of those three will likely need to do it again against the Mob if they hope to win the game.
GAME 2: SLASHERS (4-3) vs OZONE (1-4)
UPS AND DOWNS: The Slashers and Ozone, who face each other for the first time this season, appear headed in opposite directions. The Slashers are coming off a 3-1 week and need a win to keep pace with the Mob and Buzzsaw, who meet in the first game on Thursday. The Ozone have lost three straight outings after a 1-1 start to the season. They suffered a heartbreaking, last-second 66-65 loss to the Rumble on Sunday. Two of the hottest players in the league – Tony Crosby II of the Slashers and Keith McGee of the Ozone – will be in the spotlight Thursday night …
CROSBY, THRILLS, SMASH AND FUN: Tony Crosby II was named to the Week 2 All-SlamBall team after being responsible for 20.0 PPG, 24 dunks, 11 assists and 17 LBRs in four games last week. His 30 points against the Gryphons on Saturday were the fourth-most by a player this season. He also tallied 26 points in a win over the Rumble on Friday. For the season, Crosby is sixth in the SlamBall in PPG (18.0) and tied for first in dunks (34). Amazingly, at 5-6, Crosby has been credited with a league-most 20 hits – nine more than any other player! Crosby is also used to getting hit, often illegally. He has been involved in more offensive Face Offs (14) and converted more (10) than any player in the league.
McGEE SPREE: Keith McGee exploded for 38 points in the loss to the Rumble on Sunday. That was just five points shy of the single-game SlamBall record of 41 points set by Ty McGee (no relation) of the Wrath earlier this season. Keith McGee is fifth in the league in PPG (18.2 PPG), tied for fifth in dunks per game (5.0) and sixth in FG% (63.2, 31-49).
DEFENSE OPTIONAL: Points have been easy to come by for opponents of the Slashers and Ozone. The Slashers have permitted 56.0 PPG to rank sixth in the league while the Ozone has allowed 59.0 to rank seventh; the Rumble rank last (66.0). The Slashers (52.9, second in league) are averaging 6.5 more PPG than the Ozone (46.4, fifth).
GAME 3: Main Event (Game 1 Winner vs Game 2 Winner)
FRIDAY, AUGUST 4
GAME 1: GRYPHONS (1-4) vs RUMBLE (1-4)
GOING FOR 2: The Gryphons and Rumble are both looking for win No. 2 and a ticket to their second Main Event of the season. Both were thumped by the undefeated Mob in their previous Main Event appearance. The Rumble got their first victory of the season in dramatic fashion last Sunday. Tamyrik Fields’ resounding slam dunk with three seconds left lifted the Rumble to a 66-65 win over the Ozone. The Gryphons got their only win of the season on July 27, slipping by the Lava, 47-45.
OFF THE DEEP END: Maybe the Rumble will be the ideal tonic for the Gryphons’ ailing offense. The Gryphons have mustered a league-low 39.0 PPG, while the Rumble have yielded a league-most 66.0 PPG. Justin Holmes and KyShawn Jones have done all the heavy lifting for the Gryphons’ offense. They are responsible for 76% of the team’s non-penalty points. Holmes is averaging 15.0 PPG, which ranks seventh in the league, while Jones is chipping in 13.6 PPG, which ranks ninth.
KING OF THE HILL: Kaylon Tippins-Hill has been the Rumble’s most reliable scoring threat. He ranks third in the league with an output of 19.6 PPG. No other Rumble player is contributing more than 8 PPG. Tamyrik Fields has frequently moved up from his stopper position to aid the Rumble’s offense, twice scoring 15 points in a game. Fields was the hero of the Rumble’s only win of the season, throwing down a monstrous dunk in the waning seconds against the Ozone last Sunday.
FACE TIME: No team has been better on offensive Face Offs than the Gryphons and no player has been better than Justin Holmes. The Gryphons are a league-best 85.7% (12-for-14) on offensive Face Offs, while Holmes is a perfect 7-for-7. The Rumble have attempted a league-low five offensive FOs, making two.
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL: These two teams will look to improve their shooting in the second half of the season. The Rumble own a SlamBall-worst 38.9 field goal percentage, while the Gryphons have the third-lowest percentage at 42.2. The Rumble have fired up more than twice as many 4-point tries than any other team in the league, going 7-for-49 (14.3%) from beyond the arc. The Rumble have also attempted the most 3-pointers, connecting on 4-of-23.
GAME 2: LAVA (0-4) vs WRATH (3-3)
HEALTH WATCH: Both of these teams have been forced to deal with injuries to key performers this season. The winless Lava will once again be without first overall pick Bryce Moragne, who is averaging 20.0 PPG. He reinjured his ankle against the Gryphons on July 27. For the Wrath, Christian Gray (knee) will miss his fourth consecutive session, while Steven Julian (ankle) will be sidelined for his third straight. Stopper Shawn Stith (ankle), who was injured on Sunday, will also sit out Friday’s action. There is good news for the Wrath, who will get back Ty McGee (concussion protocol). McGee, who missed both of his team’s games last weekend, leads SlamBall with an average of 22.8 PPG.
MELTDOWN: The Lava have been incredibly close to getting a victory this season, but it keeps getting snatched from their grasp. They have lost two games by four points, one by three and another by two. On Sunday, they led the Buzzsaw by 15 points at halftime, but were outscored 20-2 in the final two quarters, dropping a 32-29 decision. The Lava’s scoring output has declined with each game, going from 63 points to 56 to 45 to 29.
BREAKS OF WRATH: The Wrath made the Main Event in each of the first two sessions they were a participant, beating the Ozone and losing to the Buzzsaw. But with a depleted roster, they went 0-2 last week, losing by eight to the Buzzsaw on July 28 and then by 41 in the biggest blowout of the season against the Mob on July 30. They scored just 61 combined points in the two losses.
GAME 3: Main Event (Game 1 Winner vs Game 2 Winner)