Iowa Energy @ Tulsa 66ers - D-League Semifinals Playoff Preview - Game 1

The first game of the second round of the 2010 D-League playoffs tips off tonight at 7 pm CT from lovely Tulsa, Oklahoma as the #1 Iowa Energy take on the #8 Tulsa 66ers in the first of a three-game series.  If you don't live in Tulsa, it can also be watched live on NBA Futurecast.

The two teams split the season series, each winning two games a piece - but both teams rosters have been changed significantly over the course of the past few weeks.  Iowa has lost reigning D-League MVP Courtney Sims to more attractive overseas offers as well as Earl Barron, Othyus Jeffers and Cartier Martin to NBA call-ups.  Tulsa, on the other hand, lost Mustafa Shakur to a call-up and Byron Mullens and DJ White have both been recalled to the Oklahoma City Thunder for their upcoming playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

After the jump, I'll take a look at how each position matches up - assuming each team's roster isn't as fluid as they have been thus far.  With Tulsa's lineup changes, I decided to insert the lineup the way I would do it - therefore, it's probably wrong.

PG - Curtis Stinson vs. Kyle Weaver - Weaver is more of a two-guard by trade, but with Shakur being in the NBA, I think it makes sense to slide Weaver into the point guard position while maximizing Tulsa's talent on the floor.  Weaver is 6-foot-6 and an excellent defender, though his offense has shown to be quite potent as well - he averaged 25+ points in the first round while shooting better than 60% from the field.  For Iowa, Stinson leads the way.  Earlier today he was named the best point guard in the D-League and nearly averaged a triple-double (20 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 9 apg) in the Energy's first round series.  I can see Weaver somewhat neutralizing Stinson, but I don't know how well Weaver will do running the offense. Advantage: Push, and therefore Tulsa due to the role Stinson plays.

SG - Pat Carroll vs. Moses Ehambe - Both are pure, pure, pure three-point shooters.  How pure? Carroll shot 42% from beyond the arc during the regular season and , well, so did Ehambe.  This matchup will come down to who gets more open shots - and I think with the Stinson being the more pure point guard, he should be able to find Carroll open more than Weaver's able to find Ehambe.  Advantage: Iowa.

SF - Mark Tyndale vs. DeRon Washington - I don't know how to handicap this matchup.  They're both at their best when hustling and attacking the basket and neither really possesses a jump shot.  I'm not particularly in love with either player defensively, either.  Advantage: Tulsa, due solely to the fact that Washington is bigger.

SF (yes, not PF) - Jeff Trepagnier vs. Larry Owens - Both teams aren't averse to playing small ball, and with two of the more crafty coaches in the D-League, they'll probably both be fine going that way to start the game. This would be a match-up of two of the more unheralded cogs of each team, though I don't think either team would be where they are without each piece.  Trepagnier's a wily vet who excels on defense with his quick hands and, before the first round series, also had a dead-eye from beyond the arc.  Owens, on the other hand, is able to do whatever Tulsa needs him to do - buckets, boards, blocks, defense, distributor - you name it, Owens has done it for the 66ers this season. Advantage: Tulsa.

C - Connor Atchley vs. DeVon Hardin - Only masochists are looking forward to this mismatch.  Atchley is a tall stretch-four with active hands and propensity leanin for fouling.  Hardin is a raw big man who also often gets himself into foul trouble.  I think Atchley's offensive game will be more harder for Hardin to defend, and therefore, I'm scoring this one for Iowa.  Advantage: Iowa.

Oddly enough, I scored it 2-2-1, meaning we're going to have to go to the sudden death tiebreaker:

Iowa's Bench: Well, it became a little bit deeper with the addition of former NBA draft pick - and Iowa Energy forward - Denham Brown, but I'm not sure how much he'll be used since he was just acquired ... Shy Ely has loads of potential and has shown he can fill in alright at the point when Stinson needs a breather, but that doesn't happen often ... Marvin Phillips is able to bring a lot of energy off the bench, though he wasn't used much in the first series as Iowa favored the now recalled Taylor Griffin in that role ... Darian Townes will probably see more playing-time in this series simply because the big man should conceivably have better matchups ... Brian Evans is a fun little point guard to watch on the bench, but I don't envision seeing much this series.

Tulsa's Bench: It's also not very deep, but capable role players are there ... Latavious Williams, in his first year of non-high school basketball, has shown to be an effective rebounder and could really break out with more minutes due to Mullens being back in the NBA ... JaJuan Smith is the most recent addition to the 66ers and thus didn't play much in the first series.  I would expect him to be the first guard off the bench though, based on what I've seen from him in the past ... Cecil Brown, if healthy, is deadly from long range.  Unfortunately, I have no idea if he's healthy ... Marcus Lewis is a widebody that I really like to watch.  He's not always effective, but there are definitely less deserving players in the D-League ... Wink Adams is a rookie point guard out of UNLV - I really don't know much else about him.

Advantage: Who knows.  Neither team has a clear edge, and perhaps more importantly, neither team has really relied on bench depth all season.

Coaches: Iowa's Nick Nurse and Tulsa's Nate Tibbetts are two of the best in the business.  I couldn't pick a favorite - both are great in-game, both have been coaching in the D-League for a few years and both seem to be able to get the most out of their players.  Advantage: Both.

Series Prediction: I think it's close, but I'll take Iowa in three.

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