The Hustle returned to action on ESPN2 to face off against Dusty Hannahs and the Santa Cruz Warriors just 24 hours after their narrow loss to the G-League Ignite. The Warriors come into the game on a 5 game winning streak that the Hustle would look to snap. Sean McDermott cleared quarantine to make his Hustle debut, but the team was without Jontay Porter who was out due to injury management.
Slowing down one of the best offenses in the G-League isn’t easy, and the Hustle found themselves down 13-4 early. The Warriors didn’t slow down then either as they jumped out to a 14 point lead by the midway point of the quarter. The Hustle offense got into a slight rhythm towards the end of the quarter, but ultimately found themselves down 10 at the end of the first quarter.
The Warriors opened the second quarter on an 11-0 run to extend their lead to 21. Fortunately for the Hustle, they got their offense got going a little bit and the defense picked up as they were able to come back and make a game of things. In typical fashion, they came back and cut the Warriors lead down to 8 in the late parts of the first half. The Hustle were able to claw all the way back and found themselves down by 1 point at the halftime break. The Warriors hot shooting cooled in the later parts of the second quarter, as the lead was trimmed down to just 61-60 thanks in large part to 25 first half points from David Stockton.
The Hustle run continued into the 3rd, as Sean McDermott finally got his first G-League points to give the Hustle their first lead of the game in the opening minutes of the quarter. The Hustle were able to extend their lead out to 7 before the Warriors stopped the bleeding. The Hustle were able to maintain their lead most of the quarter, but the Warriors had a run sparked by Jordan Poole that helped them retake the lead late in the 3rd quarter. The teams exchanged leads in the final minute of the quarter before the Hustle found themselves up 86-85 at the end of the 3rd period.
The Hustle got off to a strong start in the 4th quarter thanks to triples by Bennie Boatwright and David Stockton. The Warriors were able to respond with some triples of their own, however, keeping the Hustle from extending their lead. The teams exchanged leads before the Warriors took a 5 point lead midway through the 4th. That didn’t stop the Hustle, though, as they came back and retook the lead shortly after. The teams exchanged leads late in the 4th as neither team could pull away. The Hustle found themselves down by 3 with 30 seconds left in the game. David Stockton’s deep three was off the mark, and the Hustle had to play the foul game the rest of the way. The Hustle had a couple of looks to cut into the lead but the Warriors were able to play tough defense and hold on for the 116-111 win.
It was a season-best scoring performance from David Stockton who finished with 33 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Ahmad Caver chipped in 25 points off the bench and Sean McDermott had 10 points on 4-11 shooting and 7 rebounds in his Hustle debut. It was another painfully close loss for the Hustle, who lost their 4th game in a row in brutal fashion.
Jason March was visibly frustrated post game that the Hustle haven’t been able to overcome and get a win in crunch time, but he says there’s still a ton of positives to take away from the game and he doesn’t take those for granted. He says the frustration is definitely growing though. I asked him about preparing for former players and he says you typically don’t do anything too special for former players, but that Dusty Hannahs was no normal former player. He says they game planned for him and he thought they did a good job on him defensively early, but lost him late in the game which let him get hot and all Hustle fans know what can happen when Hannahs gets hot.
David Stockton spoke post game and said he felt he was in a groove offensively after seeing a couple of shots go in, and then with the team getting stops and in the fast-break he got the ball in his hands and it just ended up with him being the one scoring. Stockton says the team needs to hunker down in crunch time and focus to execute better offensively and not turn the ball over and try and get good looks. Says they also need to keep their defensive pressure and not overthink things.