The bj-league postseason begins on Wednesday as the upstart Shimane Susanoo Magic try to extend their season into May by upsetting the Rizing Fukuoka.
The Magic-Rizing two-game series tips off at 7 p.m. in Kyushu with a compelling storyline: Can coach Zeljko Pavlicevic’s squad reverse its fortunes against Fukuoka?
Entering the Western Conference’s first-round series, the Rizing, who went 18-6 at home, are 4-0 against the expansion team this season. This includes 77-65 and 96-78 wins on Nov. 18-19 in Fukuoka and 91-73 and 77-73 wins in Shimane Prefecture on April 2-3.
In the first round of games between the clubs, Nile Murry, who helped the Osaka Evessa reach the title game last May, paced the Rizing with 25 points. But in each of the other three games Michael Parker was Fukuoka’s top scorer, getting at least 27 points in each of them. In November, Magic point guard Takumi Ishizaki was on national team duty, playing for Japan in the Asian Games (he missed six Shimane games in the month).
On April 2, the Rizing offense had its way with Shimane, outscoring the hosts 61-35 in the second half. But Pavlicevic’s club played tighter defense in the rematch, falling by four points, a game in which Reggie Golson and Will Caudle had 21 points apiece.
Since play resumed on March 18, Fukuoka coach Tadaharu Ogawa’s club has won nine of 12 games, but dropped three of its last four, including back-to-back overtime games against the Eastern Conference powerhouse Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix two weeks ago.
The Magic went 6-6 to end the regular season. Golson led the club in scoring (17.2 points per game), while Caudle (10.3), Jeral Davis (10.0), Tatsuhiro Yokoo (8.3) and Terry Evans (7.7) are capable scorers in Pavlicevic’s spread-the-wealth offense. Floor leader Ishizaki has confidence in his skills and isn’t afraid to take the shot with the game on the line. He averaged 12.5 and showed after the All-Star break that he’s one of the league’s most consistent scorers, putting up double-digit totals in 14 of 15 games from mid-February to mid-April.
Parker captures scoring title
The bj-league’s individual statistical leaders this season included some familiar names and a few newcomers.
Fukuoka’s Michael Parker captured his third straight scoring title (27.3 points per game) and played a league-high 1,963 minutes. He was No. 1 in steals (2.3) for the fourth consecutive season.
Shiga’s Gary Hamilton repeated as the chairman of the boards, hauling in 15.2 rebounds per contest.
Former NBA point guard Kenny Satterfield, who began the season running the point for Saitama and moved on to Osaka after the Broncos canceled their final month-and-a-half of games, was the top passer (6.5 assists).
Shimane’s Jeral Davis was first in blocks (3.2 swats)
Fukuoka sharpshooter Akitomo Takeno led all players in 3-point shooting accuracy (46 percent, or 75-for-163). Kyoto’s Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, one of the NBA’s premier free-throw shooters in its rich history, shot 89 percent at the line to earn the title this season.
Niigata’s Zach Andrews made a league-best 65.8 percent of his field goals, while Sendai’s Mike Bell averaged 1.7 dunks per game to finish first in that category.
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