The Memphis Hustle returned to the court for the first time in 3 weeks to face off against the Santa Cruz Warriors. The Hustle had a break after the Showcase Cup in Las Vegas, with the break being extended due to the high amount of G League players earning 10-day call ups pushing the beginning of the “regular season” of the G League back. While the Hustle were out of action, Shaq Buchanan and Ahmad Caver earned call ups with the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers respectively. Both players, along with Freddie Gillespie, are coming back to the Hustle, but Gillespie was unavailable as the Hustle haven’t officially activated him in his return from Orlando.
Santa Cruz enters the matchup with a 2-0 record to start the regular season. The Warriors have been led by two-way player Quinndary Weatherspoon and also had the services of lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody tonight, with the Golden State Warriors in town to face off against the Grizzlies tomorrow.
The Hustle didn’t back down from the challenge as they took an early lead on the Warriors thanks to some solid defense and forcing some early turnovers. Tyler Hagedorn flashed his inside-out scoring prowess leading the Hustle with 7 first quarter points. Hagedorn hit a triple and then flashed some post moves, while Reggie Hearn chipped in another 5 points in the quarter. The Warriors got their offense primarily from Moses Moody (7 points) and Quinndary Weatherspoon (6 points) with LJ Figueroa chipping in 5 points off the bench. The Hustle found themselves up 24-20 at the end of the first.
The Hustle offense was unstoppable to start the second quarter, opening on a 10-4 run to take a double digit lead in the opening minutes. The teams traded baskets throughout most of the 2nd quarter, as the Hustle were able to maintain their double digit lead through the midway point of the quarter. The Hustle were able to go on a 3-point shooting spree to extend their lead up to 16 in the final minute of the first half, but Quinndary Weatherspoon responded with a couple of triples of his own to keep things relatively close as the Hustle took a 66-53 lead into the halftime break. The Hustle used a 42-point second quarter to take the double digit lead into halftime as David Stockton scored a team high 20 points, with Quinndary Weatherspoon chipping in 20 for the Warriors.
The Warriors came out of the halftime break a little more crisp offensively, cutting the Hustle lead down to 5 by the midway point of the 3rd quarter. The Hustle were able to respond to every Warriors run though, not allowing them to get any closer than the 5 point until the final minutes of the quarter. Tyrell Terry wrapped up the 3rd quarter with an insane 3-pointer, as he had to force a 3⁄4 court heave with the shot clock expiring after a deflected pass. The Hustle ultimately found themselves up 92-88 entering the final quarter.
The Warriors were able to cut the Hustle lead down to 2 as both teams traded baskets throughout most of the quarter. After the Hustle led pretty much the entire way, the Warriors were able to tie things up midway through the 4th quarter. The Warriors were able to take the lead but the Hustle fought back and quickly took the lead back. The teams found themselves tied and neither could pull away in the later portions of the 4th. The Warriors found themselves up 5 with just a couple minutes remaining but the Hustle came back to tie things up at 121 with a minute and a half left. David Stockton and Reggie Hearn were crucial down the stretch making a handful of big shots. A pair of free throws by Stockton gave the Hustle a 125-123 lead with 48.1 seconds left in the game. The Hustle were able to get a stop on the defensive end but couldn’t hit the dagger on the ensuing possession giving the Warriors a chance to tie or go for the win with 17.2 seconds left. Moses Moody missed the potential game-winning triple but Cameron Young split the ensuing free throws giving the Warriors life. Jason March instructed his team to foul up 3, but Caver fouled Weatherspoon on a 3-point shot attempt and Weatherspoon made all 3 free throws to the the game and send it to overtime.
Both teams exchanged baskets in the opening minute of the 2 minute OT period. The Warriors found themselves up 2 with 20.5 seconds left after an outback by LJ Figueroa. Reggie Hearn hits two free throws to tie things up but LJ Figueroa crushes the Hustle spirits with a game winning floater at the final buzzer. It was only fitting this highly competitive game came down to the final shot.
It was a great effort by the Hustle who couldn’t overcome monster games from Moses Moody and Quinndary Weatherspoon (71 combined points) and timely shots by Figueroa. The Hustle hit the road for a 6-game road trip as they’ll face off against the Iowa Wolves on Thursday.