The Hustle went in to tonight’s big time matchup against Sioux Falls with a half game leading over the reeling Skyforce for the final spot in the playoffs. The Skyforce, losers of their past 7, had dropped from prime playoff position to potentially missing out entirely. The Skyforce roster has been decimated losing key players like Jarnell Stokes, DeAndre Liggins and Briante Weber over the past couple of months. The Skyforce did send down two-way player Duncan Robinson to help out but Yante Maten is still with the Heat. The Hustle had extra reinforcements with Tyler Dorsey and Jevon Carter joining both Yuta Watanabe and Julian Washburn. The Skyforce hold a 2-0 season series lead after two early season victories. The Hustle will need to win the final 2 games against the Skyforce to help avoid an unfortunate tiebreaker situation.
The Skyforce jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead over the first two minutes of the game, but after that it was all Hustle. The Hustle defense picked up it’s intensity and forced a couple of turnovers to give them a nice 5 point lead midway through the quarter. The Hustle finished off the quarter on a big run to give them a 43-28 lead at the end of the first. It was a balanced scoring effort for the Hustle with Yuta Watanabe leading the way with 10 points. 6 of the 7 Hustle players to play in the quarter scored, with Jevon Carter being the lone player without any points in the quarter. Carter spent his time dishing out 5 assists instead of focusing on scoring.
The Hustle extended their lead to as much as 18 points early in the quarter before a quick Skyforce run cut the Hustle lead to 10 midway through the quarter. The Hustle weren’t able to rebuild their lead, but they did hold off the Skyforce from cutting the deficit to single digits. At the end of the half, the Hustle led 70-57. Tyler Dorsey led the Hustle with 16 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Yuta Watanabe the only other Hustle player in double figures with 14.
Every other Hustle player to play has scored. Jevon Carter finished the half with only 3 points but dished out 9 assists to go with 3 steals and a block.
The Skyforce were able to cut the Hustle deficit to single digits early in the quarter, thanks in large part to the Hustle’s lack of depth down low. Nino Johnson is doubtful to return and Doral Moore only lasted two minutes before having to be subbed out because of his leg injury. Ismaila Kane subbed in for Moore and picked up 4 quick fouls in just 5 minutes, forcing Moore to try and fight through the pain and come back in midway through the quarter.
The Hustle lead fluctuated between 5-10 points throughout most of the quarter setting up what should be an exciting fourth quarter. In the end the Hustle finished the 3rd with a 96-90 lead over the Skyforce.
The Skyforce were able to cut the Hustle lead to 3 early in the 4th and both teams traded baskets much of the first half of the quarter. The Hustle were able to slightly pull away with a little over 6 minutes left in the game extending their lead back out to 9 points. The Skyforce went on another run midway through the quarter to cut the deficit back to 3 but couldn’t do anything to regain the lead on the Hustle as Yuta Watanabe and Jevon Carter pushed the Hustle to the 121-110 victory.
Yuta Watanabe (26 points, 11 rebounds) and Jevon Carter (19 points, 11 assists, 4 steals) led the Hustle with their double-doubles. Tyler Dorsey led the Hustle in scoring with 27 points off the bench. The Hustle ended up with 6 players scoring in double figures in a well-balanced effort by Brad Jones’ squad. The Skyforce were led by 20+ points by Duncan Robinson, Rodney Purvis, and Bubu Palo. Outside of Marcus Lee’s 18 points, the Skyforce just didn’t have enough offensive firepower to outpace the Hustle.
The Hustle win momentarily gives them a half game lead over the Salt Lake City Stars for 5th in the Western Conference Standings. The Hustle are off until they travel to face off against the OKC Blue on Friday night.