NBL Canada Playoffs - ROUND 2 - Preview

NBL Canada Playoffs - ROUND 2 - Preview

It was a tough first round for your St, John’s Edge and their Round 2 opponent, the KW Titans. Both teams have their share of nagging injuries and some players who are questionable for the beginning of Round 2. We will preview this Best 4 of 7 match-up for you by first looking at the season series, then briefly recapping round one for each team. We will finish up with some key factors to the series and what fans can expect to see from both the Edge and Titans.

Season Series
February 23 At KW
These two teams locked horns just 3 times this season, with two of those meetings coming at Mile One Centre and one at the AUD in Kitchener-Waterloo.

In the first meeting, it was a true show of their offensive power as the KW Titans defeated the Edge 117-105. In this one, the Titans could not miss from three-point range (at least it seemed that way). KW put up 40 points in the first quarter alone on 11-of-14 shooting from downtown. It was a game where the Edge found themselves constantly behind and they would have no answer for the Titans offence in this one. When the dust settled, the Titans would finish shooting 54% from beyond the arc, converting 20 triples which was just under half their point total.

St. John’s would get a big game from Glen Davis and Junior Cadougan as the pair combined for 48 points. The story overall was the shooting ability of KW as they were a threat from the time the ball got over half-court. This game took place in the middle of one of the toughest stretches in the Edge season as they would win just one game on this trip.

March 12 in St. John’s
In their second meeting of the year, the Edge would face the Titans without the services of Glen Davis who had to attend to a personal family matter back in the United States.
This one from the beginning seemed like it would be all St. John’s as the Edge held a lead for the majority of the game, only relinquishing it in the second quarter for a brief moment and also early in the third quarter.

Unlike the first meeting, the Edge would actually out-shoot the Titans in this one hitting 15 three’s to the Titans 14. The Edge would also get a big 29 point and 10 rebound game from Olu Ashaolu who stepped up in the absence of Glen Davis.

With the Edge leading by 15 points at the 10 minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Titans started their comeback. Newly acquired, Ashton Smith would lead the way as he paced the offence scoring 14 points in the final frame to help the Titans complete the comeback and pick up the win for his team by a score of 123-109.

March 13 in St. John’s
Looking to battle back and split the two-game set with the Titans, the Edge would be doing so with a well-rested Glen Davis back in the lineup.

We won’t go too far into the details of this one, but it was a back and forth game throughout, with the Titans struggling to find a way to stop the big man down low. KW would hold a lead at the 5 minute mark of the fourth quarter, but the Edge would storm back into this one with Junior Cadougan doing damage from the free-throw line while Glen Davis dominated down low.

The Edge would get one back with this win as they defeated the KW Titans by a score of 101-97. Davis would lead the offence for St. John’s dropping 33 points to go along with 10 rebounds.

The season series would finish with KW having the advantage at 2-1 as the teams made their final push for the playoffs.

Round 1 Recap
St. John’s Edge vs Sudbury Five
For your Edge, it was a rough and tumble shootout with the Sudbury Five in Round 1. The Edge would get hit early by the injury bug as Dez Lee would have a lower body injury flare up early in the series forcing him to miss Game 3 and the majority of Game 4. While Shaquille Keith, who was impressive through the first two games of the series would suffer a broken foot in Game 3 and be forced out for the remainder of the playoffs.

After a split at home, the Edge would lose Game 3 by a score of 124-112 and it seemed like the toll of their injuries was starting to take affect.

In Game 4 with their backs against the wall, the Edge pulled out the win 107-102 to force a Game 5 back at Mile One Centre. In Game Five it was all hands on deck as the Edge would battle through injury and fatigue to complete the comeback and win the series in front of 3500 strong at Mile One Centre.

The story of the series was the Edge ability to slow the Sudbury offence down and limit their second chance opportunities on route to the series win.

KW Titans vs London Lightning
The Titans came into their first round series as the under dog on paper as they represented the #4 overall seed, while London were the #1 seed in the division.

In Game 1, KW shocked the London crowd as their offence carried them to a 119-95 win over the defending champs. The combo of Akeem Ellis and Flen Whitfield would prove deadly as the two combined for 52 points in the Game 1 win.

Game 2 was much of the same, the Titans would find themselves battling back throughout the game, but would complete the comeback as they grabbed their largest lead of the game at around the 2 minute mark of the fourth quarter on route to the 101-97 win and a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Games 3 and 4 London would wake up and play how the #1 seed should as they picked up two big wins on the road in Kitchener-Waterloo to even the series at 2 games apiece.

This one would also come down to a crucial Game 5, with KW travelling to London to try and complete the upset in the first round. KW would lead for most of the game with London only able to hold the lead in the first few minutes and never leading by more than 2 points. The Titans would get a huge game from veteran Tramar Sutherland who had 23 points with 12 rebounds in this one, while Flen Whitfield was a monster in the post picking up 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds as the Titans moved on to the second round for the first time in franchise history.

Round Two – KW Titans vs St. John’s Edge
Overview
This one looks to be an interesting match-up as the Titans are playing their best basketball at the right time, while the Edge will be looking to stay healthy enough to grind out 4 more wins to advance to NBL Canada Final for the first time in the teams short history.

It will be all about trying to find a way to stop the high-powered KW offence for the Edge. With KW routinely shooting about 40% from beyond the arc, it will be key for the Edge to limit the open looks and make the Titans play into their hands by having them drive to the hoop to meet the immovable objects that the Edge possess in the low blocks.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Edge have the advantage in the post with Glen Davis and Olu Ashaolu as one of the best platoon combinations in the league. In previous match-up’s with the Titans, Davis scored 24 and 33, while Ashaolu scored 29 on a night with Davis out of the lineup. If they are able to work to work the ball around and get these two big men their touches, they should win the battle on the blocks.

For the Edge shooters and guards, it will be a bit of an unknown as they have several players battling injury. As we discussed before, Dez Lee fought through a lower body injury to come up big for them in Game 5 against Sudbury, while Murphy Burnatowski is also battling an injury of his own and played with everything he had left to lift the Edge to the win in Game 5. The key will be to get some solid production from their bench who have been hit or miss over the last few games. They will need guys like Russell Byrd, Jared Nickens, and Jarryn Skeete to play solid in their additional minutes they might see if guys like Dez Lee and Junior Cadougan are unable to log heavy minutes.

Of course, the Edge still have the ultimate X-factor in their captain, Carl English who is very close to a return from a thumb injury that many thought would end his season. English suffered the injury back in February and required surgery immediately which has sidelined him for the entire month of March and through the first round of the playoffs. If English is cleared to play, expect him to make an impact slowly, but one that will have implications on how this series turns out. With Carl English inserted into the lineup, his veteran savvy mixed with his innate shooting ability could change the landscape of how the Titans plan to play against the Edge.

Key Match-Ups
Glen Davis/Olu Ashaolu and Flen Whitfield/Derek Hall
We are probably biased, but we see this one leaning the way of your St. John’s Edge. Although Hall is not one to play a ton of minutes, he will surely have to play some if Whitfield gets into foul trouble.

Davis and Ashaolu are forces when they get the ball, the offence for the Edge will run through them on the majority of the sets throughout this series with them attacking the players in the post to draw fouls and cause Flen Whitfield to have to step up and play some tough defence throughout.

Whitfield is a big piece of the offence for the Titans as he was almost dominant in the Game 5 win over London. Expect that he will get his fair share of touches in the post and will not be afraid to go at Davis or Ashaolu in any circumstance. The key here is depth as the Edge have worked out a great platoon that seems to be solid by giving both Davis and Ashaolu their rest and keeping them out of foul trouble. The Titans depth is uncertain as Whitfield plays the majority of the minutes for them.

Joel Friesen and Isaiah Tate II/Carl English               
This will be interesting as Friesen was not in the lineup in any of the contests during the regular season between these two teams.

Friesen has been battling injuries throughout the year and has not looked like himself on the floor. We cannot overlook the fact that he was a key player on London the last two season’s helping them win multiple championships.

We expect him to match-up with Isaiah Tate II who has found himself vaulted into a starting role with his solid play over the last few weeks of the season. Tate II can shoot the three on command and plays some tough defense on the other end. Here it will be about the ability to get his open looks as Tate II usually gets matched up with perimeter defenders who like to play him tight, meaning the Edge will have to work to get Tate his open looks especially with a tough defender like Friesen nipping at his heels throughout the series. We are not sure how this one might turn out, but we know that it could also be a match-up for Carl English if he returns to the lineup and he and Friesen are no strangers to each other as they were matched up with one another for a couple of games in last year’s London/St. John’s playoff series.

Ashton Smith/Akeem Ellis and Junior Cadougan/Dez Lee
Smith and Ellis are deep threats around the three-point line. This was seen on display at Mile One Centre back in March and has continued throughout the playoffs. However, Cadougan and Lee are no strangers to shutting down knock down shooters. Example is their ability to limit the point production of Maurice Jones Sr. and Braylon Rayson in their first round series.

Ellis is the biggest threat to shoot the long ball and is great at moving without the ball to give himself the space needed to get his shots up. He will also need to ensure he doesn’t leave Dez Lee open either as Lee was one of the top three-point shooters for the majority of the season this year before he was plagued by injury.

Smith is a quick guard who can shoot and is not afraid to hang and bang in the post with the big guys. Junior Cadougan is a similar guard who is not afraid to take a bump and keep going at the hoop. Cadougan can shut down the quickness by mixing in his toughness, while the speed advantage goes to smith who is making a name for himself with his quick moves to create open space and ability to distribute the basketball.

These are just a few of the key match-ups we think we will see in the series, but of course there are many factors that could create different match-ups as the teams battle to pick up four wins. It will surely be an exciting, tooth and nail battle right down to the final buzzer. We encourage Edge fans to hold onto their seats as the emotions will be on a roller coaster as we look to book our ticket to the franchises first NBL Canada Final.