Friday, December 22, 2017

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 7

Posted By on Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 9:13 AM


A promising start to the road trip quickly turns sour

Road trips are fun, for a time. The first few hours bring with it a sunny optimism, full of well-intentioned banter, a good playlist, driving games, and maybe some podcasts or books on time. As the drive drags on though, tempers might begin to fray. Funny little asides might slowly transition to annoying tics before things flare up into full blown arguments. If that’s how it goes, the Hustle’s recent three-game road trip followed a similar pattern.

With Vincent Morgan, Jeremy Hunter, Austin Nichols, and Kobi Simmons all inactive, nine Hustle players took it upon themselves to make a statement early on, working towards a solid 123-115 victory. Omari Johnson missed eight of his 12 three point attempts and still ended up with 26 points. Marquis Teague also had himself a game with another 26 point showing off 10-18 shooting. Ivan Rabb continued to be a steadying presence, providing the Hustle’s only double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds while playing at Center. The 12 boards were a huge part of Memphis’ dominance on the night, with the Hustle out rebounding the Warriors 51-31 and putting up 28 second-chance points. They also led 24-13 in points off turnovers. It helped bridge the gap over the Warriors’ high scorers Cleanthony Early and Georges Niang.

After that performance, something went wrong. Perhaps Vince Hunter grabbed the iPod out of Marquis Teague’s hands and changed the playlist, but in the end, the Hustle’s next two games resulted in losses. To be fair, the South Bay Lakers are 12-5 and consistently churn out decent performances, so there’s no shame in this close loss. Many Hustle players gave standout performances: Omari Johnson scored 26 points yet again, while Ivan Rabb, Durand Scott, and Marquis Teague each also scored above 20 points at 23, 22, and 25, respectively. Rabb grabbed 16 rebounds to complete another double-double. Memphis took a 69-61 lead into the second half, but standout Lakers performer Travis Wear scored 14 points in the third, which ended with a 100-95 advantage to the Lakers.

It wasn’t a bad performance by the Hustle; against one of the G-League’s better teams, they kept pace, and occasionally surpassed, their California opposition. Unfortunately, it was just one of those nights where more players on the other team have career nights. The steady shooting, however, vanished in the next game against the Iowa Wolves.

It’s almost as if Iowa takes it personally that they’re no longer Memphis' G-League affiliate. This occasion saw the Hustle fall to a 113-111 defeat, with many players regressing in terms of shooting percentage. Omari Johnson only got 11 points this time on 4-14 shooting; Durand Scott went just 3-10, but managed to make all 10 free throws to end with 16 points. Trahson Burrell picked up the slack with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Marquis Teague continued to provide a steadying presence with 20 points. The worst part of the game was that the Hustle led, but Iowa scored the final five points to eke out the two-point win.

On a more positive note, the game in Des Moines saw the return of Austin Nichols, who chipped in with 8 points on 4-7 shooting. His presence should help pick up some rotational slack for the next few games. The Hustle go back home tomorrow for a game against the Austin Spurs before another roadtrip against the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Salt Lake City Stars, Reno Bighorns.



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