The Hustle wrapped up their regular season with a Saturday matinee against the Delaware Blue Coats. The Hustle may have already been eliminated from playoff contention, but the Blue Coats had the change to jump as high as the 2-seed in the G-League playoffs or as low as the 5th seed depending on how the gams today and tomorrow go.
It was a high scoring game in the first half of the quarter as Delaware held a 20-17 by the midway point in the quarter. The Delaware held a lead most of the quarter, but couldn’t push it further than a 6-point lead as the Hustle hung around and found themselves down 32-28 at the end of the first. It was a strong first quarter by Freddie Gillespie who finished with 8 points in the quarter.
The Hustle were able to quickly tie things up early in the second quarter but the Blue Coats were able to respond and retake an 8 point lead by the midway point in the quarter. That certainly didn’t stop the Hustle as they were able to climb back into things and tie the game up shortly after the Blue Coats took a sizable lead. The Blue Coats quickly jumped out to an 8 point lead but a 10-0 run by the Hustle game them the lead. The Hustle ultimately found themselves with a 60-56 lead at the halftime break. It was a fun first 24 minutes that featured 5 ties and 7 lead changes.
The Hustle jumped out to a 7-0 run to start the 3rd quarter to extend their lead to double digits in the opening 2 minutes of the quarter. That didn’t quite put away a persistent Blue Coats squad who methodically cut into the Hustle lead to tie things back up by the midway point in the quarter. The Hustle were able to hold a small 2 possession advantage throughout most of the 3rd quarter, before ultimately finishing the quarter up 86-80 over the Blue Coats.
The Hustle were able to dominate a low-scoring 4th quarter, not allowing the Blue Coats to cut the lead down to anything less than 6 points in the quarter. The Hustle defensive pressure continued to force all kinds of issues for the Blue Coats who managed to score just 15 points in the quarter as the Hustle went on to win 106-95.
It was arguably the best all-around game for the Hustle on the season, especially considering the completion. Sean McDermott led the Hustle with 23 points on 9-17 shooting (5-9 from distance). Ahmad Caver had another fantastic all-around game scoring 15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks. Freddie Gillespie continued to show why he’s a great call up candidate with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks on 7-10 shooting. Tyrell Terry capped off his assignment career with the Hustle with a nice 10 point, 5 rebound, 3 assists, 3 steals game. Shaq Buchanan finished his second G-League season with a solid 12 point, 5 rebound, 2 steal performance as he looks for an NBA call up. Lastly, David Stockton continued to shine as a bit of a do-it-all point guard as he dropped 10 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists while also picking up 3 steals in the finale.
The Blue Coats got 27 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks from MVP candidate Paul Reed but it wasn’t enough to topple the Hustle. The loss eliminated the Blue Coats from being able to get the 2-seed in the playoffs, as they will have to settle for the 3rd, 4th or 5th seed depending on how today and tomorrow shakes out.
Jason March was pleased with the teams performance on the last game of the season, with everybody getting on a flight shortly after the game. Jason, as he has said numerous times this season, says that he never has to worry about the team coming out and not playing hard but was proud of how they fought tonight as well as all season long. Jason was also proud of the team for forcing 27 steals and turning them into 40 points. He told the team after the game that it was probably “the best defensive communication by the team in the bubble”, which is saying a lot for a team that was already top 5 defensively in the bubble.
Jason was proud of his teams effort and resiliency this season rolling with the bunches in a weird year. He highlighted how Sean McDermott was able to fit in seamlessly after joining late in the season, thanks in large part to the similar systems the Grizzlies and Hustle run. Overall, Jason was just really proud of how hard this team worked and fought against all the different circumstances thrown their way and that they really grew over the past 52 days, even if the overall record doesn’t show it.
Jason was also asked about Jontay’s growth in the bubble and says the biggest win for Jontay was getting through the bubble with no setbacks. He was proud of the way Jontay was willing and able to learn and adjust after not really playing in so long. He says that Jontay still has things to work on, but was proud of how both Jontay (and himself) went from being nervous the first couple of games to having no doubt or setbacks by this afternoon’s final whistle. Overall, Jason is pleased with Jontay’s growth this season and is excited too see what the future holds for him.
The Hustle finished the season with just nice, but not great 6-9 record. As Jason March said on a previous episode of GBB’s The Core 4 Podcast, it isn’t all about wins and losses in the G-League. The team obviously wanted to win more games and be in the playoffs, but it sure sounded like Jason was pleased with the teams overall performance as each player grew as players and men both on and off the court this season.
It isn’t quite clear what next season will look like, but I'm certainly hopeful things can get back to relative normality with games back at the Landers Center in Southaven, MS. Until then, let’s hope that some of the standout players in Freddie Gillespie, Ahmad Cavers and others earn shots in the NBA on either two-way deals or on 10-day contracts.