With the Globe TRONers taking Games 1 and 4 and the Robellion snagging Games 2 and 3, these two teams now find themselves deadlocked in a battle for the Swoops Universe. After an incredible sixteen quarter stretch of runs, comebacks, cold spells, standout individual moments, and Chris Webbrowser defining decisions, we prepared ourselves for what was now an every-possession-matters best-of-three series.
As unpredictable as this series has been, whether that be the game winning three pointer from Droidmon Green, a 1-11 shooting performance from the dominant Hakeem Olajutron, or the tactical adaptability of the Robellion in any given game, there have been two every-game constants. One is the aforementioned fate shaping powers of the Globe TRONer's Chris Webbrowser, the other has been the frozen tundra that is the first quarter.
Strap in to your snow pants, because we're starting Game 5 off the same way.
Fearing to venture inland towards the North Pole of the basket, both teams stayed out near the coast and fired up three pointers for the first two minutes of the game. Safe as it seemed just hoist up a shot and retreat to the docked safety of their defenses, it had resulted in a 0-0 score with seven minutes to go in the quarter. Again.
The Globe TRONer's fearless leaders of Green and Olajutron were the first to explore what it would be like to shoot from inside of 24 feet, but didn't come any closer to finding a bucket and were a combined 0-5.
At 6:46 to go Luka Skywalker leaked out in transition and planted his flag in the restricted area, an unconstested lay-up for the first points of the game and the Robellion's took the lead.
The Globe TRONers desperately tried to match the Robellion expansion with the leader of the pack Doge McDermott taking a 24 foot three above the break. The shot was no good but Webbrowser got out in front and took the pole position, gobbling up the offensive rebound before tossing it to Rajon Trondo for an easy floater. Unfortunately Trondo slipped and the shot skidded off the rim. No luck there and the TRONers were forced to turn back, only to see Sith Curry skate to the corner for an easy three.
It was another two minutes of action, which feel like an eternity when it gets dark this early. Turns out there isn't actually any weather in this simulation and it was just that our monitor was dimming on it's own, so after turning the brightness back up an offensive rebound from Droidmon Green turned into a trip to the line and the TRONers were finally on the board!
The proverbial sun had risen and the permafrost was melting just a little; a bad thing in the real world, but a welcome sight in the Swoops Universe. Doge McDermott came down and hit a 27 foot three, Sith Curry hit a bank shot, Droidmon made a long three, and a three offensive rebound possession from the Robellion ended via a Kobe Wan Kenobi putback slam.
The players and the Swoops Simulator were learning tactics on the fly and both teams seemed to be employing a new strategy to break through this first quarter ice. The Robellion and the TRONers were relentlessly crash the offensive glass; often sending all five players to track the ball after the many misses and try to get another offensive possession. Directly after the Kenobi slam, the TRONers came down and missed a three, crashed the boards, got another chance and Doge sank it this time.
Two possessions later, McDermott would miss a three, run after his own rebound, kick it out to Green who would miss a three, run after his own rebound, kick it out to Doge who would make the three. It was like some sort of team-based game of knockout.
Kobe Wan Kenobi would step into a deep three with the clock winding down, Doge would get a dunk on the other end, and it seemed like these two were angling for control over this game. A battle within the war.
Not to be outdone, Green and Skywalker paired off on their own huge dunk and long three, and the quarter ended on a pair of Olajutron free throws (which the TRONers were glad to see him make after his 8-16 performance at the line last game) and a Jabar the Hutt 6ft and-1 hook shot that would put the Robellion up by four, 29-25.
Starting off the second quarter the Robellion ran one of their standard actions, a Dagoback-screen that got Kenobi free on the baseline and able to find Skywalker bolting to the corner for the in-rhythm three.
Doge would come back for a three of his own on the other end two possessions later and was barking at Kenobi the entire length of the court as he made his way back on defense. Suffice it to say Kobe did not appreciate that and after Jabar missed a floater and a Chuckbacca offensive board, would push off of McDermott and cut towards the hoop for an emphatic jam. Perhaps too emphatic as his hanging on the rim obscured his team from seeing that Webbrowser had taken the ball out and launched it down the court to a streaking Droidmon for a dunk on the other end.
In classic Droidmon fashion he pressured the ball handler all the way up after the Robellion inbounded, shifting his hips to drive them towards the sideline and forced Luka Skywalker to awkwardly launch the ball to Jabar the Hutt near the half court. Jabar struggled to catch the knuckleball of a pass that came towards him and Doge swooped in and bopped it out of his hands, taking the ball before dribbling into an overzealous transition three which clanked off the side of the rim. Maybe not the greatest decision but Doge is clearly not going to be shy about his shot attempts tonight.
That type of exciting and frantic play spilled out towards the rest of the game and quickly attached to both teams defenses, as steal and block attempts became a little too aggressive and resulted in a run of free throws in the middle of the second quarter. Jabar made a couple after Doge bit on a fake, Droidmon got Jabar up in the air on the other end for an and-1, Olajutron clobbered Jabar and gave him another trip to the charity stripe, then Skywalker got into the landing area of Olajutron on a three--which was called a common foul--and Hakeem sank two of his three freebies.
After a Chuckbacca face-up 16 footer and a sneaky Trondo lay-up the game seemed to be getting back into the natural flow of things, but oh no, here come the fouls again. Kenobi shook Webbrowser's window like a Bonsai Buddy virus and got smacked on a sloppy closeout. The next possession Webbrowser made a call for the ball on offense and forced Kenobi to commit the foul on the backdown, nabbing a pair of free throws for himself.
All of the fouls from both teams saw the defense backing off a little bit, recognizing that everyone is tarting to look to draw contact more than they're trying to make shots. Defenders stepped back and said, "Go ahead, shoot it", to everyone not named Doge McDermott or Kobe Wan Kenobi.
Chuckbacca? Missed three.
Trondo? Missed three.
Droidmon? Missed three.
Chuckbacca again? Missed three. Again.
It's not often your best defense is to just let the other team shoot it, but in a stretch like this, sometimes you just have to dare the right guy to take the wrong shot.
With the game at 40-40, both teams broke free of their slump for the moment and traded easy baskets back-and-forth. Hakeem with an alley-oop fed to him by Doge, Chuckbacca a step back 16 footer off a beautiful Luka Skywalker bounce pass, a euro-step for an easy lay-in from Doge, then a Kobe Wan Kenobi turnaround where a falling Doge clipped him on release for a foul. Shot good, free throw no-good.
A missed t hree from Olajutron would be controlled by Chuckbacca who brought the ball up slowly, but Kobe Wan Kenobi hit the lightspeed and cut to the middle of the lane, forcing a trailing Olajutron to foul him on a block attempt. Olajutron spiked the ball off the backboard but Kenobi still got his two from the line.
The last bucket of the quarter was be a Doge McDermott 26 foot heater that put the TRONers within one point of the Robellion, who were holding on tightly to their 46-45 lead.
After an elongated half-time to make sure the Swoops team was able to grab lunch, the third quarter started off with both teams making a concerted effort to get it to their scoring stars. The Robellion would get the ball into Kobe who just barely missed a 13ft turnaround, the TRONers found McDermott on a curl but his three would just barely rattle out, and an aggressive drivine Kenobi would find a trip to the line the next play after a Doge McDermott reach-in on the shot. Kenobi would sink both, but McDermott would find the ball the next trip down and sail a 27ft moonshot over a half-contesting Kenobi--nothing but net. Unpleased with that, Kobe would call for the ball to be inbounded to him and sprint down the length of the court for an awe-inspiring windmill jam in traffic.
For my money, the sequence of the game if not the series thus far.
After an Olajutron dunk and a Sith Curry banked runner, these offenses seemed to be finding a nice rhythmn. Unfortunately we can't always have nice things and that temperamental arctic weather turned from clear skies to "seek shelter immediately" reaaaaal quick.
Basketball sized hail rained down on the Swoops court, as Hakeem, Green, and Webbrowser all missed easy shots in the key. Kenobi, Curry, and McDermott were slipping and sliding all over the place, turning the ball over a combined 5 times in a two-minute stretch.
Then, to make matters worse for everyone, a blizzard of fouls came rolling in. Droidmon Green picked up two fouls in the span of 6 seconds, the second one sending Jabar the Hutt to the line for a pair of free throws.
Sith Curry tried to climb the ladder to block Olajutron, but slipped half way up and spiked him in the head instead, sending him to the line.
After a stagnant offensive possession that ended up with Green holding the ball at 18ft with two seconds left, he surprisingly made the shot but was inexplicably fouled by Skywalker for the three point play.
After a couple misses, Skywalker would once again foul McDermott who would sink two at the line.
All-in-all it would be enough free throws to end up with the Robellion extending their lead to seven, as this quarter would finally come to an end on a (not joking) turnover by Webbrowser, turnover by Skywalker, offensive foul by Rajon Trondo, offensive foul by Sith Curry, Shaqtin' A Fool HOF lock of a sequence.
The fourth quarter would open with a missed 18-footer from Hakeem, a missed 6ft bank shot by Jabar that sailed well wide of the square, and an uncharacteristic badly missed three from Doge.
What seemed to be veering into eternal winter territory was thankfully cut short by Jabar and Webbrowser trading baskets, a highlight block from Olajutron, then a turnover from Green leading to a Chuckbacca rainbow three, which Droidmon would get back after he was fouled on a powerful dunk by Luka Skywalker. We can see clearly now!
After a Chuckbacca 13 footer, Doge McDermott was fouled on his own dunk by Chuckbacca for a three point play. His fire had cooled down from earlier in the game but just needed a little bit of stoking to get reignited.
Unfortunately for the TRONers, the Robellion were able to answer with a Sith Curry three, and with only six minutes left and a nine-point deficit, needed to find a way to get stops on the defensive end as well.
It was just one of those nights where the defense would step up, but the offense would step back, and visa versa for the TRONers. The next possession Olajutron would turn it over and foul Kenobi on the break.
Webbrowser would force the Skywalker turnover, outlet the ball to Rajon Trondo, but Trondo would dribble the ball of his foot and into Sith Curry's hands. Curry would dump the ball into Jabar the Hutt on offense, and the Globe TRONers would force Jabar to turn the ball over leading to Olajutron running down the court for a lay-up which would then be blocked by--believe it or not--Sith Curry.
A comedy of errors from both teams that looked more like the intro to America's Funniest Home Videos than a basketball game, as Droidmon Green would carelessly foul Skywalker on a jumper and send him to the line for two as the game neared the four minutes remaining mark.
A missed three by Doge, a pair of free throws by Jabar, a lay-up from Green that was shot out of the sky by Chuckbacca, nothing was bouncing the right way for the TRONers at the end of this game. A jumper from Doge was welcomed to cut the lead by two, but their very next possession was another echoing block from Chuckbacca who rejected Hakeem at the rim. Luckily that led to a poor shot in transition on the other end and the ball got back to Doge on offense quickly who drained an 11 footer.
If the TRONers were going to make a move to get this back under control it was going to have to be now, as the Robellion held a 78-70 lead with just under three minutes to go.
The ball quickly made it's way back down on offense for the Robellion, and in what I can only imagine was a decision made off the primal excitement of having blocked so many shots, Chuckbacca fired up a three before the shot clock hit 20 seconds. It barely hit the rim and Doge was able to corral it and loft the ball down the court to a streaking Green for the lay-up.
Sensing some tension in the rest of his team, the Robellion's man-of-the-match Kobe Wan Kenobi brought the ball up the court and tried to settle things down. Doge was playing the most aggressive defense he had all game and an outstretched Kenobi arm was a little too pushy, which resulted in an offensive foul being called and the ball back in the Globe TRONer's hands.
Droidmon Green was having flashbacks to last game, as were we. In an attempt to repeat his heroics he got the ball up quickly and tried to bank in a little five-foot runner, missed it, attacked his own miss and grabbed the offensive rebound, took the ball back out and launched up a three, but missed it. That three bounced into Hakeem's hands just outside the key, then found Green again in the slot where on his third attempt of the possession would sink it. The TRONers now trailed by only three, 75-78.
Droidmon's counterpart on the Robellion, Chuckbacca, had his own heroics in mind as he saw that three and raised one of his own in the same confusingly short amount of time. With 22 seconds left on the shotclock, Chuckbacca launched another bafflingly ill-advised shot, but this time it went in. Why run the clock down if you can make a three instead, I guess?
The TRONers, understandably frustrated, took the ball out and got it down quickly. Green was able to find a seem in the defense and awkwardly drive for a lay-up, but it was blocked off his leg as he went up. Somehow he was able to grab the ball in mid-air off of the block and save it to Hakeem, but the big man was unable to hold onto it in traffic and Luka Skywalker took off down the court with the ball.
Kenobi pulled the ball out to eat some time, a tactic which Chuckbacca was now made aware of, but saw a double team coming from Trondo and Doge and was forced to toss it cross-court Luka, who swung it to to Sith Curry. Hakeem had sprinted over to pick the pass off and was able to, handing the ball off to fatemaker Chris Webbrowser who was once again ball-in-hand for one of the most important possessions of the game. Webbrowser dribbled down the court, jump stopped, and launched a 27 foot rainbow as quickly as he could. Nothing but net. The game was back within three, 81-78 Robellion lead.
With 44 seconds left the Robellion got the ball in to Kenobi again who brought it up slowly, set up the offense, and saw no double team coming out to him as the TRONers opted to play straight up and try and get the stop.
Kenobi had been probing in and out of the defense during this possession but didn't realize how much time had come off the clock. He was forced to dump the ball off to Jabar in the post who had to put up a shot with four seconds left on the shot clock. It careened off the rim at a bizarre angle and luckily for the Robellion, Sith Curry in the right spot to snag it and the TRONers were forced to foul him. Curry sank both free throws to put the Robellion back up five with 18 seconds left.
Assuming he would make both, the TRONers let Hakeem leak back on offense and he was a wide open giga-megatron sized receiver for the inbounder after Sith's free throws. The two point conversion was good and the game was back within three with fifteen seconds left.
The Globe TRONers tried as hard as they could to force the five second call, or a turnover, but the ball ended up in Luka's hands and off he went to the line for two points. He sank both and a five point lead would remain as such for the Robellion who held on down the stretch to win Game 5 by a score of 85-80.
This was as tight of a game as we've seen this series, with the lead only briefly getting into the double digits, but for the most part was within five for the vast majority of the time. After taking a 12-11 lead in the first quarter, the Robellion were able to hold onto it the whole way through and stave off each of the Globe TRONer's attempts to usurp it.
Once again we see a flip of the free throw numbers and the Robellion were able to be the aggressors on that end. Well, half aggression and half careless defense on the part of the TRONers I suppose. Still, they took 27 more free throws as a team and made 23 more of them. In a five point game that's where you can point to first. Impressive conversion by Jabar and Kenobi who were a combined 21-25 from the stripe tonight.
Despite some serious offensive struggles this series, Luka Skywalker has been an absolute menace defensively. He is clogging up passing lanes and digging down on defenders constantly. Tonight was his best night in that role as he picked up three blocks and three steals.
For the TRONers they were certainly able to convert at a high rate on their shots. Though they didn't have the free throw volume that the Robellion did, they were taking and making enough shots to keep pace with the disparity and ended up shooting just under 50% as a team from the floor and from three. They won the rebounding battle but struggled mightily with ball security as they racked up 21 turnovers, lead by a 7 turnover night from Rajon Trondo.
Tonight was a two player race the whole way through and both deserve mentioning as Player of the Game.
Doge McDermott, though his team didn't get the win, was your game high scorer and kept the TRONers in this one all night long. While his supporting cast went a combined 2-7 (28.5%) from three and 18-42 (42.8%) overall from the floor, Doge put up 38 points on 61/50/100 shooting splits, tossing in 5 boards, 3 assists, a block, and a steal to boot. He is truly the TRONers battery on offense this series and it can not be overstated how vital his play has been for them in every single game.
Your other Player of the Game is none other than Kobe Wan Kenobi, who had a team high 28 points on 50/33/91 splits, and continually took control of the game when it seemed to be slipping away from the Robellion. Whether it was forcing his way to the line during cold stretches, or making sure he got the ball at the end of the game so Chuckbacca couldn't go AWOL on offense, Kenobi commanded the Robellion forces to this win.
The Robellion now take the commanding 3-2 lead in the series and can close this first chapter in Swoops history by winning the next game.
If I had to guess, I don't think the Globe TRONers have any plans of letting that happen just yet.