B.LEAGUE Quarterfinals Preview: Part 2

May 11, 2024

B.LEAGUE Quarterfinals Preview: Part 2
B.LEAGUE Quarterfinals Preview: Part 2

Written by EASL

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First-time district winners San-En and Nagoya face tough matchups

The B.LEAGUE Championship is underway. Here is Part 2 of EASL’s preview of the finale ofJapan’s 2023-24 season.



San-En NeoPhoenix vs. Hiroshima Dragonflies


Neither of these sides are playoffs regulars – this quarterfinal series marks just the second time each has been there.


The San-En NeoPhoenix finished the season with a franchise-best 46-14 record to win the Central District for the first time since the inauguration of the B.LEAGUE in2016. The team also went on a franchise-record 16-game winning streak from December 24 to February 10.


San-En boasts the best offense in the league, averaging 89.5 points per game this season. The NeoPhoenix were one of the most efficient shooting teams, tied for first by making 46.5 percent of their shots.


The Hiroshima Dragonflies will be making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. After getting promoted to the B1 League in 2019, the team made its first playoff appearance last season, finishing with a franchise-best 41-18 record. The Dragonflies were dumped in the quarterfinals by the Chiba Jets.


This season, the team looks different after the departure of key players Naoto Tsuji, Ryo Sadohara and Filipino international Kai Sotto.


The team suffered a blow in March, as star guard Ryo Terashima injured his right knee and was projected to miss the remainder of the season. However, Hiroshima showed resilience, losing just four of their remaining 19 games.


Hiroshima are coming into the playoffs with a lot of momentum, while San-En are faltering a little, having lost four of their last six games.


Players to Watch


San-En NeoPhoenix –#5 Sota Oura – PG


One of the breakout stars of the B.LEAGUE this season. Point guard Sota Oura has played in all 60 B.LEAGUE games, including starting the final 36 games after long-time starter Takanari Sasaki got injured in December.


Oura stepped up to the challenge and led the team to become one of the most feared offenses in the league. The 26-year-old averaged 9.5 points per game, and 5.2 assists, good for sixth-best in the league this season.


Hiroshima Dragonflies – #12 Takuto Nakamura– G


Takuto Nakamura has filled in admirably for the Dragonflies since Ryo Terashima’s injury. The 6-foot-1 rookie was called to the starting line up for the final 19 games, and averaged 8.4 points.


Nakamura is heating up just in time for the playoffs, averaging 17 points in the final two games of the regular season.


One more stat you should know


Offense vs. Defense


The San-En NeoPhoenix pride themselves on their offense, leading the league with an average 89.5 points per game this season. The team ranked fifth in two-point field goals per game, with 20.9, and second in three-point shots, hitting 11.8 per game.


San-En’s electrifying offense will face the league’s third-ranked defense. The Hiroshima Dragonflies conceded 73.4 points per game this season. Hiroshima will be looking to force turnovers, where were fifth in the league, averaging 7.3 steals per game.


Game Schedule


All times Japan Standard Time

  • Game 1: San-En NeoPhoenix (Home) vs. Hiroshima Dragonflies (Away), Saturday, May 11, 13:05
  • Game 2: San-En NeoPhoenix (Home) vs. Hiroshima Dragonflies (Away), Sunday, May 12, 13:05
  • Game 3: San-En NeoPhoenix (Home) vs. Hiroshima Dragonflies (Away), Monday, May 13, 19:25*

* = if necessary

Nagoya Diamond Dolphins vs. SeaHorses Mikawa


Both teams are carrying plenty of momentum going into this series.


The Nagoya Diamond Dolphins were neck-and-neck with the seven-time West District champion the Ryukyu Golden Kings for the district title. With just two losses in their final 15 games, including back-to-back victories over Ryukyu on April 27 and 28 to win the tiebreaker, the Diamond Dolphins won their first district title in franchise history. They finished the season with a 41-19 record.


Nagoya have the league’s third-best offense, averaging 84 points per game this season. Their formula relies on the three. They rank second in three-point finishing, scoring 36.8 percent of their shots, and made a third-best 10.6 shots from three per game this season.


But don’t underestimate the SeaHorses. They won four of their last five games to close out the regular season, finishing with a 36-24 record to beat SunRockers Shibuya to the final Central District playoff spot.


Mikawa went through a transformation after missing the playoffs two seasons in a row. Former Washington Wizards (NBA) assistant coach Ryan Richman was brought in to take over head coaching duties. Their starting line up also went through changes, including the addition of former NBA pro Jake Layman, two-time Korean Basketball League Best5 Lee Dae-Sung, and last season’s B.LEAGUE breakout player Yoshiaki Kubota.


The changes worked, as the SeaHorses’ offense improved from 77.5 points per game to 80.4. The team’s defense improved as well, from conceding 79.3 points per game to 75.8.


Players to Watch


Nagoya Diamond Dolphins – #52 Takumi Saito – PG


Takumi Saito has been the engine of the Diamond Dolphins’ offense since his arrival four years ago.


The Japan National Team player averaged 12.7 points this season and ranked fourth in assists, averaging 6.2 per game.


Over Nagoya’s six-game winning streak to end the season, Saito was a force to be reckoned with, averaging 14 points and 6.6 assists during that span.


SeaHorses Mikawa – #19 Yudai Nishida – SG


Yudai Nishida is one of Japan’s rising stars.


The 25-year-old was the 2022 B.LEAGUE Rookie of the Year and was part of Japan’s historic run at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.


Nishida started the season hot, averaging 12.1 points in his first 18 games.


However, he missed 11 games with a left hamstring injury in February and has failed to rediscover his previous form, scoring in double-figures in just four of 18 games since his return.


The SeaHorses will need their star to find his hot hand if they want to progress in the playoffs.



One more stat you should know


Efficiency is key


The Diamond Dolphins and the SeaHorses are two of the most accurate teams in the league this season.


The SeaHorses Mikawa tied for first in field goal percentage, scoring at a 46.5 percent clip. The Nagoya Diamond Dolphins were not far behind, ranking fifth in the category on46 percent.


For both teams, getting stops will be the key to winning the series.



Game schedule


All times Japan Standard Time

  • Game 1: Nagoya Diamond Dolphins (Home) vs. SeaHorses Mikawa (Away), Saturday, May 11, 15:05
  • Game 2: Nagoya Diamond Dolphins (Home) vs. SeaHorses Mikawa (Away), Sunday, May 12, 15:05
  • Game 3: Nagoya Diamond Dolphins (Home) vs. SeaHorses Mikawa (Away), Monday, May 13, 19:05*


* = if necessary

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