With the playoffs looming next week, the final week of the regular season promises to deliver plenty of intrigue. The action at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas begins Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. PT /11:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2). The Mob put their perfect record on the line in the opener against the Lava, who notched their first two victories of the season on Sunday. In the second contest, the Gryphons and Ozone both need a win to enhance their chances of making the postseason.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
PLAYOFF PUSH: Now it gets real. Three teams have punched a playoff ticket (Mob, Buzzsaw and Wrath) while three more will try to do the same this week. The Mob have secured the No. 1 seed and a place in the semifinals but the other seven seeds remain up for grabs. One more squad will earn a coveted playoff bye. The postseason festivities begin on Tuesday, August 15 with the quarterfinals showcasing matchups between the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds, and the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. Following those games, fans will be treated to an electrifying slam dunk contest that promises jaw-dropping aerial displays, 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. Tiebreakers for playoff seeding are listed below.
PLAYOFF SEEDING TIEBREAKERS
- Win percentage
- Main Events won
- Head-to-head win percentage
- Point differential
SLAM DUNK DEAL: To thank the Las Vegas community for the resounding success of SlamBall’s return season this summer, the league is offering $15 general admission tickets for two action-packed playoff sessions at Cox Pavilion on Tuesday, August 15 at 8:00 p.m. PT (ESPN2) and Thursday, August 17 at 8:00 p.m. PT (ESPN). Playoff tickets are available now at unlvtickets.com. Fans will also get treated to a slam dunk contest after two quarterfinal games on August 15. “We are thrilled to offer this exclusive pricing as a token of our appreciation for the remarkable support we’ve received from the Las Vegas community,” said SlamBall creator and CEO Mason Gordon. “This gesture represents our commitment to giving back to the fans whose unwavering enthusiasm has been a driving force behind SlamBall’s triumphant return. The level of play we’ve witnessed in the regular season has exceeded our expectations, and we anticipate that the intensity will only escalate in the upcoming playoffs. And the excitement surrounding our slam dunk contest is unparalleled. We are proud to highlight the otherworldly skills of our creative and high-flying athletes, making this one spectacle fans won’t want to miss.”
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
FIRST THINGS FIRST: By earning the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, the Mob were given the choice to play the first or second semifinal game next Thursday. They opted to play in the opener. Of their six Main Event wins this season, three came playing in the first game of a session and three playing in the second. Overall, in the Main Event this year, teams playing in the second game have seven wins, and teams advancing from the first contest have five.
BY THE BOOK: For tonight’s first two games, Circa Sports has made the Mob an 18.5-point favorite over the Lava, while the Ozone are laying 2.5 points against the Gryphons. In the eight previous games that Circa listed odds, favorites went 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread. The Ozone were the lone underdog to win outright, downing the Wrath (-9.5) by 32 points on Sunday. The Rumble were the only other dog to cover, losing by three points in overtime while getting 6.5 points last Friday.
BY THE NUMBERS: Three quarters through the regular season, let’s look at what we’ve witnessed so far …
3,552 Points Scored
2,029 Rim Attacks
1,161 Field Goals Made
858 Slam Dunks
228 4-Pointers Attempted (33 made)
189 Face Offs (Offense-115, Defense-74)
HONOR ROLL: In addition to the Gordon/Tollin Trophy, which will go to the SlamBall championship team, some individual hardware will be handed out next week, including Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, First Team and Second Team All-SlamBall, Dunk of the Year, Stop of the Year, and Hit of the Year.
GAME 1: MOB (12-0) vs LAVA (2-5)
THE UNTOUCHABLES: For the Mob to complete a perfect 16-0 regular season, they will first have to get by the Lava, who seemingly found their mojo on Sunday. This will be the first meeting between the squads. The Mob have walked over the other seven teams in the league, beating the Buzzsaw and Slashers three times, the Gryphons and Rumble twice, and Ozone and Wrath once apiece. After opening the campaign with five losses, all by five or fewer points, the Lava showed they have plenty of fight left on Sunday, melting the Rumble and Ozone by 58 combined points.
MARVELOUS MATCHUP: Thursday’s opener pits the Week 3 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week against each other. Mob stopper Gage Smith is an intimidating presence under the hoop. Increasingly, opponents are shying away from testing him and when they do, they usually regret it. For the second time this season, Smith was named Defensive Player of the Week. He notched the league’s first-ever triple-double last Saturday, and finished the week with 36 stops, 45 LBRs and 40 points. Jihad Shockley, the Offensive Player of the Week, was the catalyst for the Lava’s initial two victories of the season on Sunday, scoring 49 total points. He chipped in 20.3 points per game in Week 3 after averaging just 9.3 PPG in the season’s first two weeks.
BRYCE OF ADMISSION: The Mob will also have to deal with first overall pick Bryce Moragne, who played eight minutes on Sunday in his return from a sprained ankle. His availability has significantly improved the Lava’s chances of making the playoffs. Moragne had 26- and 28-point efforts in the Lava’s first two games before suffering the injury on July 27 against the Gryphons and missing the next two sessions.
POINT COUNTERPOINT: Amazingly, the Mob (+329) and Lava (+40) are the only two teams in the league that have scored more points than they have allowed this season. The Mob have won every game this campaign by at least 13 points, including nine by 20 or more points and six by at least 30. The Lava endured a heartbreaking first five sessions of the season, losing one game by two points, one by three, two by four, and one by five. That all changed on Sunday when the Lava erupted for 18- and 40-point victories.
MOB BOSS: How dominant have the Mob been? Well, consider the following … they lead the league in PPG (59.4), PPG allowed (32.0), PPG differential (+27.4), field goal percentage (56.9), slams per game (15.7), offensive Face Off percentage (81.8) and assists per game (8.8). And they have committed the fewest turnovers per game (10.3).
BUCKET LIST: Of course, attacking the rim is one of the most important skills in SlamBall, and no two teams do it better than the Lava and Mob. They are the only two teams connecting on greater than 60% of their rim attacks. The Lava have a league-leading RA% of 65.0, while the Mob rank second at 60.4. Lava and Mob players make up six of the seven players with the highest RA%. The Lava’s Jihad Shockley (73.3) and Bryce Moragne (73.) rank 1-2, while Josh Shannon (62.7) is sixth. Mob players Gage Smith (66.0), Cam Hollins (65.1) and Cameron Horton (62.7) are fourth, fifth and seventh, respectively.
HIGHEST RIM ATTACK PERCENTAGE, This Season
Jihad Shockley, Lava – 73.3
Bryce Moragne, Lava – 73.0
Bradley Laubacher, Slashers – 68.0
Gage Smith, Mob – 66.0
Cam Hollins, Mob – 65.1
Josh Shannon, Lava – 62.79
Cameron Horton, Mob – 62.75
SHOW STOPPING: It is no surprise that these two squads rank first and second in the league in stops per game – Lava (10.7) and Mob (10.4). The Lava’s Faysal “Fessy” Shafaat leads the league with 9.6 stops per game while the Mob’s Gage Smith ranks second with 9.0. Smith was credited with the league’s first triple-double last Saturday with 10 points, 11 stops and 16 LBRs in a win over the Buzzsaw. Shafaat nearly matched the feat the following day, registering 10 points, 11 stops and eight LBRs in a Main Event victory over the Ozone. Smith leads the league in LBRs per contest (9.4) and Shafaat ranks fourth (6.6).
GAME 2: GYPHONS (2-6) vs OZONE (2-6)
BOTTOM LINE: The Gryphons and Ozone square off for the first time in a game dripping with playoff implications. Both teams are 2-6 this season and just a ½-game ahead of the last-place Rumble (1-6). The Gryphons’ two wins came by the narrowest of margins, beating the Rumble by three points in overtime and the Lava by two points. The Ozone thrashed the Wrath by 32 points to advance to Sunday’s Main Event, where they suffered a humiliating 40-point loss to the Lava. They were outscored 35-2 in the first half of that game.
PRESSURE POINT: Points have been at a premium for both teams. The Gryphons have tallied the second-fewest PPG in the league (43.5) while the Ozone have mustered the third-fewest (47.5); the Buzzsaw (40.5) are in the cellar. Each team has a viable scoring threat. The Gryphons’ KyShawn Jones stepped up his offensive production last Friday, posting 37- and 29-point games. But he was limited to four points in a loss to the Mob on Saturday. The Ozone’s Keith McGee averaged 19.9 PPG last week, including a 34-point outburst against the Wrath on Sunday.
TWO 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 Aug. 4. 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 a perfect 10-for-10 on offensive Face Offs and 4-for-6 (66.7%) on defense. Both are the best percentages in the league for players with five or more attempts.
HIGHEST OFFENSIVE FACE-OFF PERCENTAGE, This Season
Justin Holmes, Gryphons – 100.0% (10-10)
Darius Clark, Mob – 100.0% (6-6)
Gage Smith, Mob – 100.0% (5-5)
>>Min. 5 attempts
HIGHEST DEFENSIVE FACE-OFF PERCENTAGE, This Season
Justin Holmes, Gryphons – 66.7% (4-6)
Cam Hollins, Mob – 66.7% (4-6)
Marcus Gray, Ozone – 66.7% (4-6)
Faysal Shafaat, Lava – 66.7% (4-6)
>>Min. 5 attempts
OZONE HOLE: The Ozone have been an enigma this season. They played their best game of the year in Sunday’s opener, dismantling the Wrath, 68-36, then turned around and played their worst, losing 61-21 to the Lava in the Main Event. There have been several problem areas for the Ozone. They have made the fewest stops per game (20.8) and hits per game (3.6), while ranking next-to-last in LBRs (20.8) and steals (2.1) per contest.
GAME 3: Main Event (Game 1 Winner vs Game 2 Winner)