Friday, November 10, 2017

The Hustle Report: Week 1

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 8:50 AM

click to enlarge MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
  • Memphis Grizzlies
Introductory Editor's Note: now that the Grizzlies' G League affiliate is located here in Southaven, there are twice as many games to cover. As much as I love basketball — especially the garbage time variety — that's a lot of games. So we here at Beyond the Arc had a board meeting and decided what to do: send our Hustle Intern, Sam Cicci. He's going to be reporting weekly on what the Hustle are up to. Mostly, I think he's just happy we let him out of the supply closet we keep telling him is an office. — KL

The Memphis Hustle’s first week of competitive existence offered a mixed bag results-wise. Last Saturday, a promising start to the G-League franchise’s season was cut short as they let a large lead slip against the Sioux Falls Skyforce. The Hustle, led by Grizzlies two-way player Kobi Simmons, remained mostly consistent throughout the first half but ultimately succumbed to Skyforce’s third quarter surge.

Simmons scored nine of his 25 points in the first quarter to help the Hustle take the lead, while the teams matched scoring at 27 points apiece in the second quarter to leave the Hustle ahead 60-51. Everything looked rosy as Grizzlies assignee Ivan Rabb (20 points on 6-7 shooting) and Vince Hunter (23 points) stayed hot to give the team an 18 point lead, but after that, it all went downhill as Sioux Falls roared back. The Hustle’s first-quarter shooting percentage (57%) dropped over the course of the game. The third quarter, when Skyforce gained the lead, saw a drop to a measly 33.3% shooting statistic for the Hustle. Skyforce held on for the rest of the game and finished with a four-point lead, 116-120.

That sluggish momentum unfortunately carried into next day’s home game against the Salt Lake City Stars. In the early goings, the Hustle defense struggled to contain Stars point guard Nate Wolters’ penetrative runs, which created simple layups for his teammates or a kick out to the three point line for an open look. Meanwhile, on the offensive end, Hustle players were continuously forced to dribble into traffic and take contested shots for much of the first quarter. The Stars managed to pull out to a 25-12 lead, but the Hustle managed to claw it back to a one point deficit by the end of the half thanks to vital contributions from Trahson Burrell (20 points, 14 rebounds).

With a little over nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 81-81. The Hustle embarked on an 8-0 over the next few minutes and didn’t trail again, closing out the game with a 102-99 scoreline to record the franchise’s first ever win. There were encouraging signs after the victory; Ivan Rabb (16 points, 12 rebounds), Vince Hunter (13 points, 12 rebounds), and Burrell all recorded double-doubles, while Marquis teague, Omari Johnson, and Simmons joined them in scoring into double figures. For fans of new Grizzlies signings, Sunday’s game offered a return to the court for shooting guard Ben McLemore. While the experience was mainly about building fitness and sharpness, a few of his confident drains from the three point line should provide a boost when he returns to NBA action against the Rockets this coming Saturday. “You can tell he’s a bigtime NBA player,” says Hustle coach Glynn Cyprien. “And that’s not just because of his shots, but because he plays with a certain pace and a certain confidence.”
If the past weekend’s games are anything to go by, the Hustle’s inaugural G-League season should be packed full of dramatic, closely-contested games. It was encouraging to see the team stand back up after an opening-day defeat, but the second game against the Stars provided some clear insight into some of the team’s strengths and weaknesses. The Hustle’s first quarter deficit was partly owed to their poor shooting from beyond the arc, where they went 5-of-27 vs. the Stars’ 13-of-30. However, Memphis managed a steady resurgence thanks to their domination of the glass, 55-40, with a huge edge in offensive rebounds at 20-9. That aggression is what coach Cyprien wants to see from all of his players. “At times we’ll have Grizz guys, sometimes we won’t, but we need this to be consistent, and tonight all our guys were very consistent on the glass. It could have been really easy for them to lie down during a back to back and make some excuses, but they didn’t. I think we’ve got a quality team here.”

If these back-and-forth games keep up, it’s going to be a wild, frantic season at the Landers Center, even if it looks like the Hustle’s turtle mascot is sometimes asleep in his chair. If the close, nervy games aren’t quite your thing, there’s always the bounce-castle tucked away behind the court. Good thinking, Hustle.

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