FWDB #3a: First Round Predictions

  • By John Comey, Day 171, 2022

Toronto Huskies (65-17) vs Detroit Mustangs (39-43)
Season Series: Toronto 3-1
91: @Toronto 103, Detroit 100
125: @Toronto 116, Detroit 112
134: @Detroit 116, Toronto 112
166: Toronto 108, @Detroit 104

The best chance for Detroit will be to steal a game or two in the beginning of the series. The Huskies played four games in the final six days of the season, and while all reports are that they will be fresh for the series, the Stangs could pounce on them early. They are not intimidated in Toronto, as is evidenced by the two close games at the Huskies Center.

Realistically, you can throw the first two games out the window, as Dameon Clarke was not with Detroit (and Pace LaGarde was). Clarke went for 42 in the first meeting (yet was just a +1 on the floor, in a four-point win).. He scored 35 in the second game (but was a -5 in a four-point loss).

The key for this series is three-fold:

1) How do the Mustangs gameplan defensively?
2) Winning the paint.
3) The bench play.

Darius Barry has, of course, been the offensive focal point of the Huskies. He was 15-20 for 35 points in the final meeting of the regular season. He was 10-15 for 25 in the only loss Toronto had. The interesting thing is, he was aided by Brandon Terry’s 22, and Bryant King’s 23 (and Vionte Houston’s 15) in the loss. In the win on 166, Terry had 17 and Houston 16, but King had just six.

So, if you’re Detroit, the key would appear to be limiting Barry’s touches. Probably. Maybe allowing him to have his way, while limiting everyone else, is the key.

We do know that limiting the Huskies in the paint is far more important. In their lone win, the Mustangs outscored the Huskies 54-52, and 10-2 on second-chance points. In the loss on 166, the Huskies outmuscled to the Stangs to a 64-46 clip in the paint. Detroit has to make use of their only real advantage in this series, which is a distinct advantage on the glass, to have a consistent chance of gaining an upset.

The bench play is also key for Detroit. In the win, Detroit outscored Toronto, 26-15. In the loss on 166, the Huskies had a 23-19 edge.

Realistically, a lot of the statistical comparisons contradict one another. It really comes down to whether or not Detroit can limit Toronto’s ability to attack and make them one-dimensional, however that dimension is going to be. When Toronto gets to shapeshift and beat you in different ways, they are nearly impossible to stop. Detroit, with their rebounding ability, is surprisingly well-equipped to stay with the Huskies. But closing them out, against someone like Barry, with so many other weapons around him, is going to be close to impossible.

Prediction: This may be a more competitive series than one thinks. Just not in the final linescore. Toronto in five.
2 Philadelphia Warriors (53-19) vs 7 Atlanta Devils (49-33)
Season Series: Philadelphia 2-1
16: @Philadelphia 107, Atlanta 83
157: Philadelphia 100, @Atlanta 98
167: @Atlanta 122, Philadelphia 116

The two teams faced each other twice in the final ten days of the regular season, so we can focus on those games. They were two very different games, though they ran along the same lines. Atlanta led for much of each game. The Warriors came back to take the lead. One time, they held.

Realistically, this comes down Atlanta’s ability to rebound against Philadelphia. Not many were able to rebound well, as Philly was the best overall rebounding team in the league. This is especially true on the offensive glass; Atlanta gained just eight second chance points in the three meetings between the two teams. For a team that was fourth in the league in offensive rebounds, this can be crippling.

Atlanta had to shoot the lights out to gain the one win they did, hitting 54.5% of their shots from the field in that 167 win.

Philly plays uglyball, and forces you to do so, too. They can squeeze the life out of the ball on a team’s offensive end. Atlanta will have its chances—they did finish sixth in field goal percentage, after all—but their inability to hit threes will cost them dearly for their lack of second chance points. For as varied as Atlanta can be on offense around Taquan Slattery, Marques Thomas and James Spencer, the Philadelphia defense will force them down one avenue. Spencer is especially key in this case, as he has to be effective. In the lone win, he went 7-7 from the field, finishing with 21. In the two losses, he was 6-19 from the field, and finished with 18 points.

Prediction: The Huskies shut down what Atlanta does well. Atlanta does not really have a counter, outside of hot shooting. Expect Alonzo Weaver and company to roll. Philadelphia in four.

3 Chicago Jailbirds (60-22) vs 6 New Orleans Hurricanes (49-33)
Season Series: Tied 2-2
18: @New Orleans 110, Chicago 88
64: @Chicago 108, New Orleans 104
117: @Chicago 129, New Orleans 112
157: @New Orleans 103, Chicago 83

This is another series where you kind of have to disregard earlier games, because the two teams changed late in the season. Chicago added Pace LaGarde, while the Hurricanes picked up combo guard Hilton Phillips. LaGarde saw his role considerably reduced upon his arrival in Chicago, as his scoring was cut in half, and his minutes by a third. Phillips, meanwhile, upgraded the Hurricanes significantly on defense. They were already solid, but finished fifth in team defensive rating.

This was witnessed by the Jailbirds first hand on 157, the only time the two teams faced each other in their current form. The Canes held Chicago to just 34.1% shooting, including 25.8% from three, as they rolled by twenty. Now, that’s a blip. The Jailbirds were 11th in field goal percentage this season, and first in three-point percentage. But the addition of Phillips is a huge asset for the Hurricanes against the backcourt of Jason Cheaney and Keydren Carter, the high-powered duo for Chicago.

Chicago looked superb with LaGarde in the starting lineup (net rating of +22.0). And the Canes with Phillips are not nearly as gaudy. But we feel there is something in this exact matchup that gives New Orleans a significant chance of pulling off the upset. It may be that the biggest asset Chicago has is home court advantage. They were 37-4 at The Jailhouse this year, though they did lose three in the final month of the regular season.

Prediction: This is where we think a team can get picked off. The Canes were probably the worst opponent for the Jailbirds. It’s a toss-up, but if there’s an upset somewhere in the East, this is it. Hurricanes in six. (In a bit of a hedge, if it gets to seven, Chicago will win.)