The Hustle return to the court in the Gubble to face off against the 3-8 Agua Caliente Clippers. Both the Clippers and Hustle enter the game on 5 game losing streaks, so one streak will be broken tonight while the other will continue to plummet down the standings.
The Hustle will get the services of Tyrell Terry, who missed the last game with a thumb injury while Jontay Porter also figures to play in tonight’s game instead of the game tomorrow as the team continues to manage his minutes in his return from injury.
It was a pretty solid start for the Hustle, who found themselves with with a slim lead midway through the quarter. It was a slow start offensively, with just 4 players getting in the scoring column but the defense was able to pick up the slack and slow down the Clippers offense. The Hustle were able to extend their lead to as much as 10 points later in the quarter as they took control of the game. The Hustle led by as much as 12 points before a late Clippers run cut the deficit down to 5.
The Hustle opened the second quarter on an 13-4 run to extend their lead to 14 early on. The Hustle offense got going behind Sean McDermott, Ahmad Caver and Shaq Buchanan extending their lead to as much as 17 points in the quarter. The Hustle shot the ball really well in the first half, starting 7-11 from the game before cooling off late in the quarter. The Clippers were able to go on a run late, cutting the Hustle lead down to 5 once again as the Hustle led 56-51 at the halftime.
The Clippers were able to slowly continue their run into the 3rd quarter by getting the Hustle in early foul trouble and were able to eventually retake the lead by the midway point in the 3rd quarter. The teams traded leads throughout the rest of the 3rd, before the Hustle went on a run to finish the quarter with a 85-81 lead entering the final frame.
The Hustle were able to extend their lead early in the 4th, seeing their lead jump out to as much as 10 points in the opening minutes of the quarter. The Hustle were able to maintain their 10 point lead throughout the first half of the final quarter, with Freddie Gillespie continuing his dominant defensive performance protecting the rim for the Hustle. The Hustle were able to ultimately pull away late as Shaq Buchanan put together one of his best offensive performances of the Gubble and with Sean McDermott making some timely plays late. The Hustle were able to snap their 5-game losing streak and keep their playoff dreams alive for another night after defeating the Agua Caliente Clippers X-X.
It was a solid all-around game by the Hustle who had 6 players score in double figures on the night. It was a great team effort by the Hustle, who got a combined 11 points from David Stockton and Tyrell Terry. Sean McDermott was huge for the Hustle with 21 points on 8-16 shooting. Shaq Buchanan and Ahmad Caver stepped up big time as they combined for 37 points. Freddie Gillespie had one of the best all around games of the season with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 5 blocks. Jontay Porter continues to look better with each passing game, scoring 9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks on the night. His shot isn’t falling (3-11 from the field) but he’s looking more mobile and active every night.
Jason March was pleased with the teams performance tonight and mentioned how they finally got off to a good start and continued to fight and battle throughout the team. Jason was also very complimentary of Sean McDermott saying he “loves Sean” and loves how he runs the lanes and how he’s not scared to shoot the ball. With the whole Memphis organization focused on then “next shot” mentality, March says Sean embraces that and plays the right way.
I asked Jason about the teams poor free throw shooting, and he doesn’t know if it’s because of the youth, the 1-for-2 rule or a mixture of both but that there’s definitely more pressure than what the young guys are used to. He says the team needs to work on it, but is proud it doesn’t affect them in other aspects of the game. Jason was also highly complementary of Ahmad Caver and said Ahmad would have his vote for Most Improved, a theoretical 6th Man of the Year, and frankly any award he can vote for Ahmad. He says he is proud of Cavers work and how he’s willing to accept and take on any role and challenge thrown his way. March mentioned how he showed up tonight showing he can score around the rim, make the 3 as well as set up his teammates.
We also spoke with Jontay Porter after the game, who said his body is feeling a lot better than expected in the Gubble. He mentioned how tonight was his first time playing with just one day in between games so he’s interested to see how his body feels tomorrow but that overall he’s felt great. Porter says his focus on the rest of the season is to just keep improving and help his teammates get better. He wants to have fun, get better, and try and rattle off some wins to extend the season. Porter also acknowledged how fun it is playing with guards and wings who get out and run, since Porter is a passing big man. He says it’s easier to get out in transition and with how well the team cuts they’re able to get some easy baskets. Porter says they’re still getting used to playing with each other with such limited practice time, but he enjoys playing with the team.
The Hustle will look to fight off playoff elimination again tomorrow night against the 6-6 Westchester Knicks at 6:30 PM CT on ESPN+