On Wednesday, the WC Bulls open their playoff series in Westchester
"Our guys are feeling good; we obviously understand it's win or go home. But at the same time we are trying to enjoy it." - WCB Coach Charlie Henry
Maybe close your eyes and day dream a little bit of Michael and Scottie and Horace dashing down court, diving into the paint and spraying the ball out to Pax or Hodgy. And then in your darkest nightmares you see Ewing and Mason and Oakley and X crashing the boards and knocking over pretty much anyone in their way, angry and anxious against slamming and stylish.
Those Bulls/Knicks playoff games of the early 1990s were some of the most intense and ferocious games of the era, a battle of wills and styles, about who can overcome whom. It wasn't so much the good versus evil we liked to portray, but the offspring of the Bulls/Pistons. Whether force could overcome finesse, whether physicality exceeded elegance.
The prize isn't as significant this week. But there will be some reminders Wednesday when the Windy City Bulls open their one-game NCAA tournament-like single elimination playoff series with the Westchester Knicks Wednesday in Westchester.
Our guys are feeling good; we obviously understand it's win or go home. But at the same time we are trying to enjoy it. I think our guys are going to come out with really renewed energy and focus.
"It makes sense," Windy City coach Charlie Henry said about the style comparisons. "They are as unique as any team in the G-league. They play two bigs. They really throw the ball inside more than anyone else, really hunt their misses. It's very different than what you normally see in the G-league, which is usually a faster game, smaller guys. They pose a difficult challenge."
Windy City made the playoffs for the first time in their three seasons with their first winning season, 27-23. But they play on the road since Westchester had a better record. Though after running off one of the league's best stretches with 22 wins in 30 games, Windy City lost its last three games after clinching its first playoff spot.
But the ginger ale flowed in Hoffman Estates.
"We didn't play well last week," Henry acknowledged. "Obviously it's not how you want to enter the playoffs. It's either going to make us or break us. With us not having the week we wanted last week, we talked and I think our team is in a good place. Having been a part of single elimination before, there are times you come in with all the momentum and don't play well the first game and times you have some adversity and come out and play well. We're excited we get another crack at them after having just been there two weeks ago and having lost a tough game. Our guys are feeling good; we obviously understand it's win or go home. But at the same time we are trying to enjoy it. I think our guys are going to come out with really renewed energy and focus.'
The G-league plays two rounds of single elimination and the a three-game finals.
Windy City is led by Walt Lemon Jr., the point guard from Julian High School and Bradley U. who led a turnaround from a 5-12 start. He's an exciting player to watch with his penetration, averaging 20.9 points and second in the G-league with 8.4 assists per game. Windy City's lead scorer was their big man, JaKarr Sampson, who averaged 21.1 points and 9.2 rebounds. Though he is about 6-9.
Westchester features seven footers Stephen Zimmerman, who has played for Orlando, and Luke Kennard, who played for the Knicks this season. Henry also expects G-league "ringers" like Kadeem Allen since the game is in Westchester. He averaged almost 10 points in 15 games with the Knicks this season. Westchester also features former DePaul and Morgan Park player Billy Garrett Jr.
"They're going to try to slow the game down; their focus is inside on the glass," said Henry. "It's opposite of us. They are a team that wants to impose its will on you. They're one of the best defensive teams (second in defensive rating). Obviously, being a home game for them they can send some guys (to Westchester) who have not necessarily played with them the last couple of games.
"That second game we beat them in overtime at our place neither team broke 100," Henry noted. "The last time we played them (losing to fall to 1-2 but scoring 118 points), I thought we figured some stuff out. We came back, scored 72 in the second half. I thought we figured out some things we could do against a really good defensive team that gave us a lot of problems the first two times we played them.
"We've obviously got to find a way to get the ball to the paint, but obviously understanding they are going to swarm," said Henry. "It will be a matter if we are disciplined enough to do it."
Phil Jackson used to say that a lot.
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