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The Hustle Report: Assigned to Win

Grizzlies assignment players come up big in 2-1 week for the Hustle

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Texas Legends v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Week 1 Results

Mexico City Capitanes 95 vs. Memphis Hustle 90 (0-1)

Mexico City Capitanes 106 vs. Memphis Hustle 110 (1-1)

Texas Legends 100 at Memphis Hustle 106 (2-1)

Week 1 Headlines

  • Sam Merrill, Jarrett Culver and Santi Aldama figure to be Hustle regulars alongside two-way players Killian Tillie and Yves Pons
  • Capitanes “host” Hustle for season opener, first games in franchise history

Game 1 Breakdown

Memphis Hustle v Mexico City Capitanes Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Shaq Buchanan- 26 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals
  • Freddie Gillespie- 12 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks
  • Darnell Cowart- 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Reggie Hearn- 10 points, 3 rebounds
  • Karim Mane- 10 points, 4 rebounds

The Capitanes “hosted” the Memphis Hustle for the season opening series against the Mexico City Capitanes and won the first game in franchise history, taking down the shorthanded Hustle who had just 8 active players available. Former NBA-er Alfonzo McKinnie torched the Hustle with 20 points and 16 rebounds while the Capitanes had 3 others score in double figures. You can check out Parker Fleming’s full recap of the game here.

Game 2 Breakdown

Memphis Hustle v Mexico City Capitanes Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Sam Merrill- 20 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists
  • Ahmad Caver- 16 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists
  • Shaq Buchanan- 15 points, 3 rebounds
  • Jarrett Culver- 14 points, 6 rebounds
  • Matthew Hurt- 14 points (4-4 from beyond the arc)
  • Santi Aldama- 13 points, 10 rebounds

The Hustle got reinforcements for their second game against the Capitanes in the form of assignment and transfer players Sam Merrill, Jarrett Culver, Santi Aldama, Killian Tillie and Yves Pons. Pons was a late scratch, but the Hustle took advantage of the extra depth and NBA-level talent to split the opening series with the Capitanes 1-1. My recap of the game can be found here.

Game 3 Breakdown

Texas Legends v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Sam Merrill- 25 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists
  • Jarrett Culver- 21 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Yves Pons- 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks
  • Killian Tillie- 13 points, 6 rebounds
  • Santi Aldama- 12 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 blocks
  • Freddie Gillespie- 6 points, 10 rebounds, 7 blocks

The Hustle returned from a 9-day hiatus to face off against the Texas Legends in Game 1 of their mini-series ahead of the Showcase Cup. The Hustle were carried by the Grizzlies assignment players who combined to score 86 of the Hustle’s 106 points in the win. It was a solid win for the Hustle who battled through their own internal struggles (20 turnovers, giving up 14 offensive rebounds) to grab the win. You can check my full recap from the win here.

Hustle Stats

48: The Hustle have given up 48 offensive rebounds over the first 3 games of the season. Despite having a good bit of size, particularly with the assignment guys, the Hustle have struggled on the boards early this season. Against the Capitanes, the Hustle gave up 34 offensive rebounds and the Capitanes turned it into 34 second chance points. Giving up offense boards hasn’t absolutely killed the Hustle yet, but they’ll need to shore things up on the defensive glass sooner than later.

5: The Hustle have averaged just 5 steals per game so far this season and had converted that into just 13 points off turnovers the first two games against the Capitanes. The Hustle did a better job against the Legends last night. Despite picking up just 7 steals, the Hustle forced 14 turnovers and it led to 21 points off turnovers. The unique way of finding ways to score even if it isn’t in fast break opportunities off turnovers will help set the Hustle apart.

MVP of the Week - Sam Merrill

Texas Legends v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Sam Merrill had an excellent week for the Hustle, appearing in 2 of the 3 games. In those 2 games, Sam was dominant. He averaged 22.5 points per game, 5.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game. Merrill shot 63% from the field and 46.6% from beyond the arc. Merrill’s scoring prowess was great, but also somewhat expected. Where Merrill has really shined has been his overall playmaking and ability to be the lead ball handler for the Hustle. Sam was huge for the Hustle last night, with a clutch 8-0 run to help seal the win against the Legends.

Week 1 Grade - A

Texas Legends v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Overall it was a really good week for the Hustle. The assignment players looked really good, albeit against G-League competition, which is to be expected. Still, there have been instances where assignment guys don’t necessarily play well and since the Hustle will rely on these guys most of the season it’s crucial they continue to grow alongside one another. A 2-1 week to start the season is great defeating a solid Capitanes squad and an admittedly shorthanded Legends team.

Week 2 Preview

Texas Legends v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Texas Legends at Memphis Hustle 11/18 7:00 PM CT

Game 4 Preview: The Hustle certainly have some things to work on heading into tomorrow night’s matchup against the Texas Legends. It will be interesting to see which available assignment players will be in Southaven with the Grizzlies also hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. The early expectation is that Jarrett Culver and Yves Pons will be with the Hustle, but there is still time for plans to change prior to Thursday. Regardless of who is or isn’t available, the Hustle will need to take better care of the ball and rebound better. They’ll also need to figure out how to contain Carlik Jones, who dropped 30 points on them Tuesday night.

The Hustle’s odd schedule continues following tomorrow night’s game as they’ll be off again for 8 days before the season really picks up with a mini-series against the Austin Spurs.

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