At 4pm the crowd at the Pyramid in Long Beach had already wrapped around the arena waiting to punch their tickets in. By the time they had filled the seats inside the anticipation was palpable, as if the people in the stands might tip over and spill on to the hardwood with the slightest nudge. The thirst for NBA quality basketball was on full display.
The match up between the Drew League and Goodman League was billed as the The Big Payback and it started with a big bang. To the surprise of absolutely no one defense was a complete after thought as the two sides lit up the scoreboard in the first half in a back and forth battle that featured numerous electrifying dunks, alley-oops and fierce drives to the lane.
On one incredible play Brandon Jennings led a fast break and tossed it off the backboard to a leaping Trevor Ariza who flushed it home with two hands. That highlight, while spectacular, was only one of many.
At halftime the Drew League led 79-71 and when the two teams began the third quarter, the furious pace hardly let up.
Oklahoma City teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden dueled back and forth, exchanging jumpers, drives and put backs. Durant would total 50 points for the game while Harden had 48 for the Drew League side but they weren’t the only players who brought their A-games.
As the fourth quarter started out it looked like it was going to belong to John Wall. Wall repeatedly sped down the court in transition and semi transition exchanges and diced his way to the cup. His forays included an incredible three hundred and sixty degree layup in the lane that brought onlookers to their feet. Wall scored a game high 55 points and the crowd, to say the least, was eating it up.
Yet as dominant as the Wizards point guard was in the fourth the Drew League squad showed resilience, recapturing the lead and taking command in the final minutes. Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes helped pick up the slack, scoring a few key buckets down the stretch on his way to 20 points of his own.
As time waned and with the score no longer in doubt the crowd cheered for their home area team. Yet not everyone was taking it so well. After Wall scored a driving layup to make it 151-144 with 23 seconds left Durant took the ball out from under the hoop and hurled it into the stands. No more time would tick off the clock. The game was over.
The Drew league had gotten the payback it was looking for and basketball fans who witnessed it received, at least for the briefest of times, a pleasant distraction from the turmoil of the NBA lockout. It was certainly a night to remember.