LOS ANGELES — The 2015 Drew League playoffs began this weekend, with the top eight teams in both divisions making up the 16-team single elimination tournament. Rumors swirled throughout the week about who would show up, and the line to get into the gym at King Drew Medical Magnet High School went nearly around the block.
As far as star power, no playoff game had a more higher-profile lineup than #2 LAUNFD vs. #7 C.A.B.C. James Harden (Arizona State, Houston Rockets) suited up for LAUNFD for the first time this season, and he squared off against fellow NBA All-Star Klay Thompson (Washington State, Golden State Warriors).
People expected Harden to play this season at some point, but for #3 ICEO, not LAUNFD. It turned out to be a good move for Harden. While ICEO was upset in the first round by No. 6 #Juglife – despite the presence of F Stanley Johnson (Arizona, Detroit Pistons), C Andre Drummond (Connecticut, Detroit Pistons), and F Solomon Hill (Arizona, Indiana Pacers) – LAUNFD took care of C.A.B.C. 78-71 behind a near-triple double from Harden (15 points, nine rebounds, nine assists). Klay Thompson, who played with his brother Mychel Thompson (Pepperdine), finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.
LAUNFD faced off against #Juglife in round 2, after #Juglife defeated ICEO 83-81 in double overtime, overcoming 33 points from Johnson and 23 points and 19 rebounds from Drummond (ICEO missed 18 free throws, including several that could have won the game late in regulation or either overtime). #Juglife featured a re-loaded roster that featured F Jordan Hamilton (Texas), F Eric Moreland (Oregon State), and F Quincy Miller (Baylor, Brooklyn Nets). But in addition to Harden, LAUNFD had a starting lineup that featured C Jerome Jordan (Tulsa), F Dorell Wright (South Kent School), G Pooh Jeter (Portland), and G Bobby Brown (Fullerton). LAUNFD blew out #Juglife in Round 2, final score 84-60, behind 14 points and 12 rebounds from F Brandon Bowman (Georgetown).
LAUNFD will face #1 Citi Team Blazers in the Keith Anderson division championship next weekend. The Blazers barely edged F Metta World Peace (St. Johns) and the #8 Pandas, overcoming a 14-point deficit to win 67-65. The Blazers then blew a 14-point second-half lead vs. #4 BB4L, who were led by G Casper Ware’s (Long Beach) 25 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Ware sent the game into overtime with a fadeaway three, but in the end, Blazers G Kyle Gibson (Louisiana Tech) was too much. Gibson made eight threes in the game and scored a game-high 32 points to lead the Blazers to a 100-98 overtime win vs. BB4L, eliminating Baron Davis’ (UCLA) team from the playoffs.
In the Russell Brown division championship, the defending champions #1 Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars will face off against #2 M.H.P. It will be the first time this century that both top seeds made the Drew League final four, as there has always been a team to slip up.
Houdini’s All-Stars’ best player in the playoffs has been G Garrett Nevels (Hawaii). He had 25 points in his team’s Round 1 78-62 win vs. #8 The Clozers, and he followed that up with 18 points and eight rebounds in a Round 2 61-59 win vs. #5 Hard Times.
M.H.P. has been led by Nick Young (Southern California, Los Angeles Lakers), as he had 32 points in an 89-77 Round 1 win vs. #7 Legacy and 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 69-67 win vs. #3 NWA.
Young is motivated to get by the defending champs this time after Houdini’s All-Stars eliminated M.H.P. in Round 1 last year.
“Revenge,” said Young, who expects G DeMar DeRozan back next week. “Payback. We’ll be ready.”
Author Law Murray is a USC Annenberg graduate, who writes for the ClipperBlog on the ESPN TrueHoop Network.