January 31, 2024 – Jamsil Students’ Gymnasium, Seoul, South Korea
Birthday boy Jameel Warney carried the Seoul SK Knights to victory and a berth in the EASL Final Four. Warney posted a game-high 34 points and 18 rebounds for his third double-double of the season, in an 89-57 win over the New Taipei Kings.
- SK: Final Four bound
The Seoul SK Knights clinched the last Final Four berth with a victory against the New Taipei Kings tonight.
The Korean side eliminated the B.LEAGUE champions, the Ryukyu Golden Kings, from contention. SK now shares the same number of wins as Ryukyu while holding the head-to-head points difference tiebreaker between the two teams.
The Knights join Group A winners the Chiba Jets, KBL rivals and EASL Champions Week winners the Anyang Jung Kwan Jang Red Boosters, and tonight’s opponents the New Taipei Kings in the Final Four.
- Group B is still up for grabs
The New Taipei Kings have now missed two opportunities to win Group B.
After losing to the Ryukyu Golden Kings last week, New Taipei just needed to lose by less than 18 points against SK tonight to secure the group. But they lost by 32 points.
The Knights now own the head-to-head points difference tiebreaker against the New Taipei Kings. If they defeat the Meralco Bolts next week, they will share the same 4-2 record as the Kings and win Group B.
New Taipei will now have to rely on Meralco to pull out a victory against the Knights to win the group.
- Kings lack star power
The New Taipei Kings came into the game missing their two top scorers.
Jeremy Lin, who is averaging 16.6 points in EASL this season, announced on his Instagram that he was hurt with a plantar fascia injury on Sunday.
The team’s leading scorer in EASL, Kenny Manigault, who is averaging 17.3 points this season, also sat out this game.
With their two stars out, the Kings relied heavily on Jeremy’s brother, Joseph Lin, and their import Tony Mitchell Jr.
Joseph had a modest all-around game, recording 10 points, five rebounds and seven assists.
Mitchell scored a team-high 12 points while also grabbing nine rebounds.
The Kings look like they need their two stars back if they want to go far in the Final Four.
EASL Player of the Game: Jameel Warney, Seoul SK Knights
Birthday boy Jameel Warney of the Seoul SK Knights was near-unstoppable this evening, playing nearly the full game (38 minutes, 40 seconds), while shooting 14 for 26 (54 percent) for a game-high 34 points.
Warney, who turned 30 years old today, recorded his third double-double of the season after also grabbing a game-high 18 rebounds.
The league’s leading scorer has scored at least 31 points in each of his four EASL games and is now averaging 37.4 points this season.
Stat of the day
The New Taipei Kings’ second-half shooting is what cost them the game tonight.
The Kings kept it close early and were down by just four going into the half.
But they couldn’t buy a shot in the second half, shooting a woeful seven of 37, for 19 percent from the field.
On the other side of the court, the Knights went 17 of 32, for 53 percent, outscoring the Kings 48-20 in the second half en route to a massive, 32-point victory.
Quotes of the day
Seoul SK Knights forward Jameel Warney:
On his team's win:
"It was good. It was wonderful. This is my first time playing the tournament at home, so I’m happy we got the win in front of our crowd, and I’m happy we could play next week too trying to get first place.”
On SK’s ambition for the Final Four:
“Win. We don’t want to go that far just to go second, third or fourth. We’re playing during our season so a lot of guys are tired, a lot of guys are out, so it would be nice to get some money after this and go and get the championship.”
On whether SK will step up a gear when their injured players return:
“100 percent. You just saw what we did, and we didn’t have most of our key players. But the bench players stepped up today. Leon and I stepped up today. We had fun today, so I’m happy we won and we’re ready for the Final Four.”
On the Korean fans:
“Thank you, fans. Keep supporting us. We’re going to keep trying to win and play our hardest.”
Seoul SK Knights: Home vs. Meralco Bolts (PBA) – February 7, 2024
New Taipei Kings: Finished all Group Stage games; qualified for Final Four