The Hustle returned to the floor in Orlando for their first night cap of the season, as they were set to face off against the 3-1 Oklahoma City Blue in Orlando.
The Hustle got out to another slow start, finding themselves down 6 early in the first quarter. The Blue were led by Antonius Cleveland in the first 12 minutes, as he knocked down three triples en route to 9 points. The Blue had 8 players get in the scoring column in the quarter and shot 5-6 from beyond the arc while the Hustle were mostly led by Ahmad Caver (8 points), Freddie Gillespie (6 points) and Sam Merrill (6 points). The Hustle were able to halt the Blue run early and keep things closer than previous first quarters this season but still ultimately found themselves down 34-28 after the first quarter.
Things unraveled a bit for the Hustle in the second as the Blue continued to stay hot from behind the 3-point line. They made three triples in the first minutes of the quarter and used the hot shooting to jump out to a 17 point lead. The Hustle did a better job guarding the 3-point line throughout the quarter, but it led to a few too many easy looks in the paint as the Hustle over helped a little on defense. The Hustle were nearly able to cut the Blue lead to single digits in the final minute, but another Antonius Cleveland triple gave the Blue a 61-46 halftime lead.
The Hustle shot 15-49 (30.6%) from the field and 4-20 (20%) from beyond the arc in the quarter. With the Blue shooting 24-47 (52.2%) and 9-13 (69.2%) from beyond the arc, the 15 point deficit could have been a lot worse.
The Blue jumped back out to a 20-point lead early in the 3rd quarter as Moses Brown took over a bit in the first few minutes of the quarter. It wasn’t a great quarter for the Hustle, but they lived up to their name by continuing to fight and try and claw back into the game. Unfortunately for Jason March’s squad, the Blue seemed to hit a big shot any time the Hustle got any sort of momentum. After being down by as many as 24 in the quarter, the Hustle were able to enter the 4th quarter down 16 points, 90-74.
A personal 11-0 run that started at the end of the 3rd and went into the 4th by Ahmad Caver helped the Hustle come back and cut the Blue lead to just 10 points early in the 4th. The Hustle couldn’t quite overcome the 10-point margin for a few minutes but thanks to some triples by Shaq Buchanan and Bennie Boatwright, the Hustle were able to cut the Blue lead down to 6 points. That’s where the run ran dry for the Hustle, however, as the Blue started to crash the offensive glass and got the Hustle in foul trouble. The Hustle kept fighting, but the Blue got extremely hot from beyond the arc late hitting multiple triples to pull away from the Hustle.
The Hustle ultimately fell to the Blue by a final score of 120-106. It wasn’t for a lack of effort though, as Ahmad Caver led the comeback charge scoring a career high 35 points, tying Malachi Flynn for the season-high for points scored in a G-League game this season.
Talking with Jason March post game, he acknowledged how the team comes out sluggish and they have to start playing better in the first half. Still, he loves the fight in this group and how they don’t ever quit. On Ahmad’s career high 35 points, Jason says he loves how Ahmad attacked the basket and finished well around the rim against some big defenders. Says Ahmad played with a great pace and really lead the charge for the comeback. Jason also touched on Jontay’s 10 shot attempts and said they were all open looks and says he always preaches to take open shots. Says he liked Jontay being aggressive, the shots just didn’t fall for Jontay or the rest of the team en route to shooting 8-44 from beyond the arc.
Ahmad Caver reiterated what March said in how they need to get out to better starts. Says he starting being aggressive because he was trying to win and saw some open lanes in the first half and wanted to take advantage. Says when the offense got stagnant he wanted to attack and stay aggressive. Caver also touched on the steals and deflections that helped spark the comeback effort and mentioned how the defense could turn to easy looks offensively.
Both Ahmad and Jason touched on how young the team is and how they got a late start in the bubble due to guys being out during the initial practices in Orlando. The Hustle will be back in action on Friday at 2:00 PM CT against the Greensboro Storm.