Season Ticket Review – Playoff time

First of all – for those of you who don’t understand the NBA D-League Playoff system, join the club.


Playoffs, Round 1: April 17th, 2007

Ft. Worth Flyers (29-21, #3 Seed) at Sioux Falls Skyforce (30-20, #2 Seed)

Not that there’s anything to understand. It’s just a little asinine, really.

See, six teams make the playoffs – three from each division. The top seed gets a first round bye while the other two play a one-game playoff. Then, the winner of that game plays the top seed in a one-game playoff. Finally, the finals are a one-game playoff.

It’s a six team, single elimination tournament. What?

There are reasons. Most of the D-League players don’t want to go through a long and drawn out playoff system. They’d rather end the season and head over to Greece or Korea or some other international basketball league. At this point of the year, there’s little chance of any player being called up anyway. They might as well head for another opportunity.

With that in mind, I find it sad that we can’t see a closely contested series – even three games. If Dakota wins out, they’ll have done it without even stepping foot on their opponents court. How can you crown a champion that didn’t even play a road game during the playoffs?

These are the conditions that we found going into last night’s game against the Fort Worth Flyers – one and done, single elimination, every mistake even more costly.

Of course, we didn’t really make it much of a battle. The Skyforce tore the Flyers apart.

The game was tied at 25 going into the second quarter. By this time, the stands had filled. I had truly thought the Arena was going to be empty, barren for what could be our only home playoff game. We walked in and found less than a thousand people in the stands, the empty seats victims of unclaimed season ticket packages.

As the game advanced, the lower stands filled. Maybe it was the Tuesday factor. Maybe people were just late. Maybe the game tipped off early. Regardless, an empty Arena filled up halfway and became electric.

We managed to outscore the Flyers by 20 in the second quarter. We sailed on from there. There was no urgency – just fast, fun basketball. We played as if the Flyers were some old CBA standby, floating around without a league and playing pickup games with other D-League teams. They hardly put up a fight, never coming closer than seven through the rest of the game.

And the refs – they were pretty good. These are playoff refs – the best in the league. I saw some things I thought I’d never see. I saw my first technical foul called for having six men on the court (against Ft. Worth). I also witnessed three players on three consecutive plays foul out of the game for Ft. Worth. It was weird. The Skyforce would run down the court, make a lay-up and draw a foul. This happened three times in a row, and each time the foul was called on a player who already had five. Boom. Boom. Boom.

Additionally, cameras were set up all over the Arena, and a national broadcast team was located at half-court. We got free t-shirts and basketballs just for showing up. This is playoff basketball, and they pulled off all the stops.

This shows the striking difference between the D-League and CBA – money, and the ability to spend it. The D-League is feeding off of the big leagues, grabbing money to help promote the product and produce something worthwhile. The CBA, however, was unknown; bare bones and horribly under-funded, with only the successful teams (Idaho, Dakota, Sioux Falls) getting any sort of bang for their buck.

But now what? Now, we hope for a Skyforce win in Bismarck against the league leading Dakota Wizards – our bitter rivals. Last time they played in Sioux Falls, we were screwed. We got them back in Dakota by beating them on the road. In fact, after the disastrous beginning of the season, where the Skyforce lost a home and away against Dakota to start 0-2, we’ve gone 3-1 against them, with two wins on the road.

Then, we hope for an Idaho loss. This puts the championship game right here in Sioux Falls.

Two seasons ago, the CBA Championship was decided on the road. Kerrie and I listened to the radio, waiting to hear whether our team had won the championship. They had. And we missed the awarding of the trophy.

This year, we have a chance to witness it first hand, as long as certain circumstances fall into place.

And with Amir Johnson set to return for the final two games, I finally believe the Skyforce could win it all – could win the NBA D-League championship in their first year in the league.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We still have to win a tough game (or two) on the road. Then, maybe we’ll get one last glimpse of the team before they’re broken up and sent around the world.

Until then, Go Skyforce.

Skyforce 128, Flyers 105

This was lovingly handwritten on April 18th, 2007