Taipei Fubon Braves were crowned the 2023 P. LEAGUE+ Champion for the third straight season two weeks ago, after defeating the New Taipei Kings in this season’s Finals. The Braves have won all three P. LEAGUE+ titles since the league was founded in 2020.
The Braves needed six Finals games to take down the P. LEAGUE+ regular season champions the Kings. Three-year NBA pro Chris Johnson won the Finals MVP after averaging 23.2 points and 13.5 rebounds in the series.
The Braves’ victory qualified them for East Asia Super League Season 2.
Routes to the Finals
Taipei Fubon Braves came into the playoffs after placing second in the regular season, only behind cross-town rivals New Taipei Kings. After a four-game losing streak in March, the Braves won 10 of their last 15 games of the regular season. The Braves faced the Taoyuan Pauian Pilots in the semifinals, sweeping them in three games by a combined 39 points to reach their third straight Finals.
New Taipei Kings started the season as the hottest team in Chinese Taipei, winning 20 of their first 25 games in the regular season. However, the Kings ended the season on shaky ground, losing eight of their last 15 games. The lead they built early was enough to make them regular season winners. The Kings faced the Taishin Dreamers in the semifinals and needed four games to finish them off and advance to their first-ever P. LEAGUE+ Finals.
The Battle of Taipei
New Taipei Kings took Game 1 at home to tip off the series, in a game that saw a double-double performance by former NBA pro Byron Mullens. The 7-foot center recorded 11 points and a massive 20 rebounds off the bench.
Taipei Fubon Braves changed their tactics in Game 2, attacking furiously down low, outscoring the Kings 54-34 in the paint. Braves’ Igor Zaytsev posted a double-double with 20 points and 11 boards, as they tied the series one game apiece and secure home advantage.
Game 3 saw the series go to Taipei Heping Basketball Gymnasium, home of the Braves. Trailing after three quarters, Johnson put the home team on his shoulders, recording a monstrous line of 29 and a ridiculous 23 rebounds to lead the Braves to a comeback victory, 97-91.
The Kings fought back in Game 4, dominating the glass and outrebounding the Braves 51-40. The Kings also saw an offensive uptick from their starters, who outscored their opposition 88-72, helping the Kings cruise to a 107-97 victory to tie the series again.
In Game 5, the Braves jumped right out of the gate, outscoring the Kings 32-22 in the first quarter. They didn’t look back, taking the series lead with a 111-105 victory and putting them within a game of the championship. Zaytsev led again with 33 points, shooting 81 per cent from the field in this game.
The Braves threw in the dagger in Game 6 at home, leading from beginning to end to cruise to their third championship in as many years. Johnson led the way again, scoring 27 points in 28 minutes. There was a valiant effort from Joseph Lin for the Kings, who was playing against his former team, scoring a series-high 37 points.
Former NBA pro Johnson takes MVP
Taipei Fubon Braves forward Chris Johnson was named the 2023 P. LEAGUE+ Finals MVP after averaging 23.2 points and 13.5 rebounds in the series.
Johnson played three seasons in the NBA, suiting up for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Hornets and the Boston Celtics between 2011 and 2013. He was also named All-NBA D-League First Team in 2011, and won the NBA D-League Defensive Player of the Year the same year.
What’s next for the Braves?
After winning the P. LEAGUE+ title, Taipei Fubon Braves have qualified for EASL Season 2. They have been drawn in Group A for the first round. Their Group A opponents are defending EASL Champions Week champions Anyang KGC, from the Korean Basketball League (KBL), the 2023 Philippines Basketball Association Governors’ Cup champions, TNT Tropang Giga, and the 2023 B.LEAGUE runners-up and regular season champion, Chiba Jets.