So we are on to the Conference Finals after an exciting first round of playoff action! Here are the results of each of the four matchups in the Semifinals.
The number one seed in the East, Raptors 905, swept the fourth seed Canton Charge in two close games. This result was a surprise to some (and to me) due to the Canton Charge’s past consistency in the playoffs. This marks the Charge’s sixth straight playoff appearance. Also, they have two of the top NBA prospects on their team: two-way guard John Holland and defensive minded big man Eric Moreland. On the flip side, the 905 had a rough inaugural season last year, and came into the season struggling to find an identity. However, with the appointment of NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse as the head coach, they seem to be firing on all cylinders.Their star guard Axel Toupane dominated in Game 1 with a career-high 41 points to lead them to a win. In Game 2, point guard Brady Heslip stepped up to contribute 21 points to deliver the finishing blow to the series.
The Maine Red Claws defeated the Fort Wayne Mad Ants two games to one and finally get past the first round of the playoffs after four straight appearances. It was a long time coming for the Red Claws, and it came because of the amount of potential NBA talent on their roster this season. Red Claws rookie forward Abdel Nader has had an incredible season and is vying for D-League MVP. The Boston Celtics number 16 overall pick Guerschon Yabusele joined him in the frontcourt, and they were a formidable force together. Red Claws point guard Demetrius Jackson led them to victory in Game 1 with 30 points and 6 assists. In the closeout Game 3, Yabusele played quite well with 26 points and 9 rebounds to help them win out. Despite the loss, the Mad Ants made a valiant effort, being led by NBA veteran forward Tyler Hansbrough. He was the best player on their roster throughout the series, and in Game 2, he led the team to a win with 27 points and 15 rebounds.
The Oklahoma City Blue came out on top of the Santa Cruz Warriors, winning the final two games of the series. In Game 1, the Warriors new addition Jabari Brown was a scoring machine, tallying 36 points for their win. Unfortunately, the Warriors seemed to be outmatched for the remainder of the series. In Game 2, Dakari Johnson, the center for the Blue, returned to form and dominated the paint. Johnson scored 29 points and snagged 11 rebounds in the 14-point win–131-117. As for Game 3, the Blue wing man Daniel Hamilton took over the reigns scoring 30 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists. They would win that game by 20 points, with a final score of 124-104.
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers defeated the Los Angeles D-Fenders two games to one. Game 1 was a thriller of a game to watch, with back and forth action and a last minute tip-in from Vipers big man Joshua Smith to force overtime. Vipers guard Chris Johnson was the standout performer with 28 points and 11 rebounds, only missing three of his 15 shots. The D-Fenders came back with a vengeance in winning Game 2, behind Josh Magette’s 15 points and 11 assists, despite letting the Vipers come back to threaten. Still, the Vipers would finish the job in Game 3, running-and-gunning the D-Fenders off the court in a 140-127 win. Vipers guard Sheldon McClellan guided them with 33 points and 7 rebounds.
The Oklahoma City Blue will play the RGV Vipers in the Western Conference Finals on April 13. The Raptors 905 will play the Maine Red Claws in the Eastern Conference Finals on April 16.
By Joshua Hamer