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The Hustle Report: Road Struggles

The Memphis Hustle struggle on the road as they go 0-2 this week.

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Memphis Hustle v Mexico City Captains Photo by Pablo Lomelin/NBAE via Getty Images

Week 2 Results

Mexico City Capitanes 108 vs. Memphis Hustle 93 (2-1)

Austin Spurs 102 vs. Memphis Hustle 99 (2-2)

Game 3 Breakdown

Memphis Hustle v Mexico City Captains Photo by Pablo Lomelin/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.- 27 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals
  • Jacob Gilyard- 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
  • Matt Hurt- 12 points, 5 rebounds
  • Justin Bean- 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Damien Jefferson- 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists

The Hustle picked up their first loss of the Showcase Cup against the vet-heavy Mexico City Capitanes. Jahlil Okafor went off for 26 points, with Mason Jones flirting with a triple-double — scoring 19 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Gary Clark finished with a double-double scoring 15 points and 12 rebounds. The Hustle couldn’t slow down the Capitanes offense the way they did in the first game in Mexico City and were outrebounded 50-38.

Some of the concerns that Jason March had with his team heading into the season came to light last week after starting off strong in the first two games. While the loss was unfortunate, the Hustle did wind up with the highlight of the night as Darnell Cowart drilled Gary Clark in the head with the pass. As the ball flew back to Cowart, he found a cutting Damien Jefferson for the easy layup. Just like Jason March drew the play up.

Game 4 Breakdown

Memphis Hustle v Mexico City Captains Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.- 28 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists
  • Vince Williams Jr.- 18 points, 6 rebounds
  • Dakota Mathias- 16 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals
  • Jacob Gilyard- 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
  • Hassani Gravett- 9 points, 3 rebounds

The Hustle dropped a thrilling game against the Austin Spurs in Texas. The Hustle led 25-6 in the first quarter, and by 21 points in the second quarter before finding themselves trailing at the halftime break. The Spurs led most of the second half before a Hustle run sparked by the two-way players forced overtime. In the team’s first opportunity with the Elam Ending, the Hustle were outscored 7-4 in OT, as Jordan Goldwire converts on an and-one opportunity with the free throw clinching the game for the Spurs.

Hustle Stats

18: The Hustle were outrebounded by 18 in the two games this week. The Capitanes won the battle on the boards 50-38 en route to their big win over the Hustle while the Spurs won the battle 58-52. The Hustle gave up a total of 28 offensive rebounds over two games giving the opponents numerous second-chance opportunities. Nothing was more symbolic of the Hustle rebounding woes than the final possession of the Spurs game where two offensive rebounds gave the Spurs a wide-open look from beyond the arc and then the layup and the foul that clinched the win for Austin.

23.9%: The Hustle shot a putrid 23.9% from beyond the arc in the last two games. They shot 10-33 against the Capitanes and 7-38 against the Spurs, good for 17-71 overall. While creating a ton of looks from beyond the arc is part of the offense, the Hustle need to convert more efficiently. Additionally, they don’t need to force looks that aren’t there. Too often in both games, the Hustle put up forced shots from long distance to try and shoot themselves back into the games. The Hustle would be better off continuing to run their offense and let the looks come to them, instead of chucking up shots early in the shot clock.

MVP of the Week - Kenneth Lofton Jr.

Memphis Hustle v Mexico City Captains Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Junior put in the work offensively this week, as he averaged 27.5 points per game to go along with 8.5 rebounds and 3 assists. Lofton shot 51.1% from the field but just 2-13 (15.4%) from beyond the arc for the Hustle. Turnovers continue to be an issue for Junior, as he totaled 16 turnovers across the two games this past week. Overall though, Junior was the only consistent and stabilizing force on the offensive end for the Hustle this week.

Assignment Tracker

Kenneth Lofton Jr.: While Junior played well enough to be my MVP of the Week, he still has plenty of room to improve as the season progresses. He can get to the basket at will but needs to be more consistent with his 3-point shot. Additionally, he has to take better care of the basketball. Some of the turnovers are acceptable, as he’s looking to create and you want him to not be afraid to take chances. Other times he makes poor or lazy decisions such as lazily throwing the ball to a Spurs defender on an inbounds pass. Admittedly, Junior’s turnover numbers are inflated by a few questionable traveling and offensive foul calls as he goes to work in the post. Junior has been inconsistent defensively, but the effort has been there for the most part. I’d also like to see Junior become a better screener. He can slip off a screen like Brandon Clarke can, and while his big body can help create space for the Hustle guards, being more physical on screens could help open up the offense a little bit more.

Vince Williams Jr: It was a bit of a mixed back for Vince in his Hustle debut against the Spurs. He finished with 18 points on 6-16 shooting but shot just 1-9 from beyond the arc with at least 3 or 4 of those attempts being forced. He chipped in 6 rebounds but lacked in the assist department with just 1 assist to 4 turnovers and 5 fouls. Some of his struggles can be attributed to shaking off some rust, but his debut was rather inconsistent. He came on strong in the first quarter as the Hustle built a huge lead, but disappeared until late when he and Junior almost single-handedly brought the Hustle back. Jason March continuously had Vince Williams attack the basket down the stretch, and Williams was the one who sent the game into OT with a layup in the final seconds of the 4th quarter.

Week 3 Preview

Rio Grande Valley Vipers vs Birmingham Squadron Photo by Christian Inoferio/NBAE via Getty Images

Memphis Hustle @ Rio Grande Valley Vipers (1-1) 11/17 7:00 PM CT

Memphis Hustle @ Rio Grande Valley Vipers (1-1) 11/19 7:30 PM CT

Memphis Hustle vs. Birmingham Squadron (0-4) 11/21 7:00 PM CT

Games 5 & 6 Preview: The Hustle road trip continues with a two-game split against the Vipers. The Vipers will be well rested, having played just twice so far this season and already having 6 days off between their last game and tomorrow night’s matchup. The Vipers were blown out in Mexico City against the Capitanes and defeated the lowly Birmingham Squadron in their home opener last Friday. The Vipers have a solid core in Louis King (22.5 ppg), Trevor Hudgins (19), Darius Days (17), and Cassius Stanley (15.5) but struggle with depth and shooting from beyond the arc (29.2% from beyond the arc). The Hustle will need to wear out the Vipers' defense and force them to settle for outside jumpers. Willie Cauley-Stein’s availability along with potential assignee TyTy Washington Jr. could swing things, but if Kenneth Lofton Jr. should be able to eat down low as much as he wants. Against a team that struggles to score, the Vipers could be just the matchup to get the Hustle defense settled and let the offense run loose.

Game 7 Preview: The Hustle will then return home following their 4-game road trip to face off against the team that eliminated them from playoff contention last season in the Birmingham Squadron. The Squadron roster is much different this year, but there are enough familiar faces on both for it to be a mini-revenge game for the Hustle. In order to win, the Hustle will need to slow down the trio of Dereon Seabron (19.3 ppg), Jordan Swing (16), and Javonte Smart (15.7). The Squadron is another team that struggles with shooting the ball from deep (32.4%). The Hustle’s defense has a chance to step up big over the next week and a 3-0 week would put them in a great spot heading into the halfway mark of the Showcase Cup schedule. Anything less than a 2-1 week could really damage the Hustle’s chances of playing in the Showcase Cup Championship bracket in Vegas next month.

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