The Hustle played arguably the most watched game of the season earlier today when they took on the 5-3 G-League Ignite team highlighted by NBA prospects Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. The game was featured on ESPN2 with a chance for the Hustle to get a little extra attention.
The Hustle struggled out of the gate, finding themselves down by 8 early on, a theme for the Hustle this season. Donta Hall had 5 early points for the Ignite, sparking the early run. Fortunately for the Hustle, Bennie Boatwright (8 points) and Jontay Porter (6 points) sparked a Hustle comeback with 4 combined 3-pointers as the Hustle found themselves tied with the Ignite at 24 at the end of the quarter.
The Hustle were able to take their first lead of the game early in the second quarter, as Bennie Boatwright’s hot shooting continued. The Hustle offense opened up a bit in the second quarter with a lot of ball movement, creating some open looks for the Hustle. The Hustle were able to jump out to a 12 point lead late in the quarter before ultimately going into the halftime break with a 57-46 lead.
It was a big half for Bennie Boatwright who had 16 first half points on 6-10 shooting. The rest of the Hustle scoring efforts were well balanced, with nobody else in double figures but 7 of the other 8 players in the scoring column. The Hustle also did a good job defensively on Jalen Green, limiting him to 2 points on 1-7 shooting.
The Hustle were able to maintain their lead in the early portion of the quarter. They weren’t able to really pull away from the Ignite, but they also didn’t let the Ignite get much closer than making it an 8 or 9 point game. Jarret Jack and Jonathan Kuminga sparked an Ignite run that helped them cut the Hustle lead down to 1 point late in the 3rd. The Ignite couldn’t quite take the lead in the quarter though, as the Hustle held on to the 3-point lead heading into the final quarter.
The Ignite were able to retake the lead early in the 4th, as the teams traded leads through the first 6 minutes of the 4th quarter. The teams continued to exchange leads in a fast-paced 4th quarter. The Ignite were able to climb take a 3-point lead in the final minute, but the Hustle were able to get a big stop and score on the fast break to make it a one point game with less than 30 seconds in the game. The Hustle were able to force a stop with 12.2 seconds left and get possession with the chance to go for the win. Tyrell Terry had a nice drive to the basket but dished it off to Shaq who couldn’t handle the pass and Jarrett Jack ended up with the ball and was sent to the line where he knocked down both free throws to make it a 104-101 game with 3.3 seconds left. Bennie Boatwright had a decent look at a game tying 3-point attempt but the shot was long as the Hustle fell 104-101.
It was a tough loss for the Hustle, who missed some open shots late. The team did have some positive takeaways though, with Bennie Boatwright finishing with 21 points on 7-15 shooting and 8 rebounds. Tyrell Terry chipped in 19 points and Jontay Porter had arguably his best game in a Hustle uniform with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Unfortunately, the Hustle couldn’t overcome Jarrett Jack’s 22 points. Jonathan Kuminga continued to prove why he’s an elite prospect with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
I asked Jason about the Hustle offense stalling out in the second half and he said the team missed shots that they made in the first half, and the Ignite stepped up their pressure. He mentioned he would’ve liked to see his team attack the paint more after missing so many shots from deep in the second half but it is something they’ll work on.
March also acknowledged that it’s frustrating losing 3 straight close games, but says there are a lot of positive takeaways for the youngest team in the Gubble. He says he’s proud of the team for putting themselves in positions to win games down the stretch, and a little better execution and they’ll start winning these close ones.
The Hustle will return to action tomorrow afternoon at 2 PM CT when they’ll face off against former Hustle star Dusty Hannahs and the Santa Cruz Warriors on ESPN2.