Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Hustle Report: Week 2

A coiled viper strikes; the Hustle pick up first road win.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 4:04 PM

click to enlarge MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
  • Memphis Grizzlies

I’m no doctor, but if you’re a passionate and devoted basketball fan from the Southaven or Memphis and have heart problems, I highly recommend you avoid watching any more Memphis Hustle home games. Last Friday, November 10, at the Landers Center, the Memphis Hustle fell to a 138–136 defeats against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. And what a game it was; both teams took full participation in a vicious tug of war that neither side was ever able to hold on to for an extended period of time. It was the third straight Hustle home game in which both teams led by at least nine points, and the third straight game decided by four points or less. If this keeps up, Hustle fans will hold the record for shortest fingernails by the time playoffs roll around.

Memphis seems to be growing into its strengths as a team. Interior play is excellent; after Friday’s matchup, the Hustle led the league average per game in rebounds (51.3), offensive rebounds (16.7), and blocked shots (9.3). As an added bonus, the team even made a G-League single-season record high 55 baskets in one game. And yet, despite all that, the Hustle still lost this game. The loss can be directly traced to the team’s three-point shooting percentage, which makes for grim reading. Only 12 of the Hustle’s 136 points came from three-point shots, with the team going 4 of 22 from beyond the arc. The Vipers went 13 for 30 and that, ultimately, is where the difference lies. The game was tied at 136 apiece when Kobi Simmons missed a go-ahead free throw with four seconds remaining. The Vipers took it down the other end and Briante Weber hit a floater to win the game. With some better three point shooting, hopefully the Hustle can avoid such last-minute drama.

The loss was disappointing, but at least fans were treated to an offensive exhibition. Ivan Rabb had another outstanding game with 27 points on 10 for 12 shooting and eight rebounds, and Trahson Burrell had his second straight double double. Wayne Selden and Deyonta Davis, on assignment from the Grizzlies this game, scored 15 points apiece.

But, like Hustle’s first competitive outings, the team absolutely did not want to lose two games in a row, and duly traveled to Canton, Ohio yesterday and won by more than four points. Former Canton point guard Jordan Crawford put up 11 points against his old team; how a 5’6 player can make heavily contested layups in traffic, I’ll never know, but I’m glad he’s on our side. Canton exploded out of the blocks with a 37-point first quarter, but the Hustle kept pace until they embarked on a 29–11 run in the third quarter, eventually extending their lead to as many as 13 points. From there, they didn’t look back.

Wednesday’s game was the only matchup between the two teams this season, so if you know anyone in Canton, enjoy your bragging rights until next year. This time around, the Hustle weren’t as haunted by poor three-point shooting, going 8 for 22. Ivan Rabb had his third double-double, and seven players scored in the double digits to take the team past Canton and 2008 NBA champion Kendrick Perkins (remember him?) on the way to the franchise’s first ever road win.

Ivan Rabb’s consistent production is a boon, but having the scoring spread around made it difficult for the Charge to shut down any one player. Hopefully there’s more to come, but we’ll probably need to work on those three-pointers first. The Hustle surprisingly lost the rebound head-to-head (but only barely, 41–40), but were able to pull out a large enough lead regardless.

At 2–2, the Hustle have made a promising start to the season. It’s good to see the character coming through, with the team refusing to lose back to back games at this point, but tomorrow’s game will prove to be a spicy matchup. The Memphis Grizzlies’ former G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves (formerly known as the Iowa Energy) arrive in town. Hope you’ve got some fingernails left.

Miscellaneous Notes:

Today is hometown forward Trahson Burrell’s birthday, so give him a shoutout on twitter: @TBurrell_2


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