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The Hustle Report: Thankful to be home

The Hustle wrap up a 6 game road trip and return to Southaven

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Birmingham Squardron v Memphis Hustle Photo by Brandon Dill/NBAE via Getty Images

Week 3 Results

Rio Grande Valley Vipers 149 vs. Memphis Hustle 124 (2-3)

Rio Grande Valley Vipers 116 vs. Memphis Hustle 127 (3-3)

Birmingham Squadron 94 @ Memphis Hustle 85 (3-4)

Game 5 Breakdown

Birmingham Squardron v Memphis Hustle Photo by Brandon Dill/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.- 29 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Xavier Tillman- 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
  • Sean McDermott- 18 points
  • Vince Williams Jr.- 15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals
  • Kennedy Chandler- 14 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists

Heading into the first of two games against the Vipers, the Hustle had the most reinforcements for a game yet this season. With Xavier Tillman and Kennedy Chandler joining two-way players Kenneth Lofton and Vince Williams Jr. expectations were that the Hustle could be the team that would come away with a blowout victory. Instead, however, it was the Vipers who crushed the Hustle. Defense was atrocious on both sides, but the Vipers insane shooting from beyond the arc (28-54) helped them pull away with the Hustle shooting just 15-42 from deep. The Vipers had 5 players score 20+ points on the night as the Hustle struggled on the defensive end.

Game 6 Breakdown

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

Key Stats

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.- 31 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists
  • Jacob Gilyard- 19 points, 8 assists, 3 steals
  • Damien Jefferson- 19 points, 8 rebounds
  • Dakota Mathias- 16 points, 6 assists
  • Justin Bean- 13 points, 9 rebounds

The Hustle responded in the second game against the Vipers, without Tillman, Chandler or Vince Williams, with what coach Jason March said was arguably the Hustle’s best game of the season. The defense stepped up and limited the Vipers to 10-35 shooting from beyond the arc, while the Hustle offense made 17 of their 40 attempts. Outscoring the Vipers by 21 from deep just a couple of days after being outscored by 39 from beyond the arc was a welcome sign. Junior was a bully in the post and the complimentary Hustle players stepped up when called upon to help them split the series against RGV before returning home.

Game 7 Breakdown

Birmingham Squardron v Memphis Hustle Photo by Brandon Dill/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.- 24 points, 13 rebounds, 4 steals
  • Xavier Tillman- 17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks
  • Damien Jefferson- 13 points, 7 rebounds
  • Dakota Mathias- 11 points, 5 rebounds

The Hustle returned home from a 6 game road trip and struggled to score back inside Landers Center. It was a defensive battle down in Southaven where the Hustle just couldn’t get into a decent rhythm offensively outside of Junior’s 16-point 3rd quarter. You can check out my full recap of the game here.

Hustle Stats

20.4: The Hustle are bottom 5 in the G League in turnovers per game as they turn it over nearly 21 times per game. While some of the reasons with the high turnovers are chemistry related integrating some new faces, others are just careless mistakes or simply bad decisions. When you already struggle defensively, you don’t want to give them easy points by not taking care of the ball.

28.3: When comparing the Hustle wins to the Hustle losses, most of the stats are the same but the one that stands out the most is the Hustle’s 28.3 assists per game in wins compared to the 20.3 assists in losses. The Hustle offensive flows better and doesn’t get bogged down when they move the ball. The more they share the rock, the easier the looks they get and can get in a better flow offensively. Bonus Stat: The Hustle shoot 39% from deep in their wins, compared to 26.9% in their losses. That’s a 15 point difference with their 39 attempts per game.

MVP of the Week - Kenneth Lofton Jr.

Birmingham Squardron v Memphis Hustle Photo by Brandon Dill/NBAE via Getty Images

It was another monster week offensively for Junior who averaged 28 points on 61.4% shooting over 3 games. Additionally Junior hauled in 12.3 rebounds per game and 4 assists to go along with 2 steals. Junior is only growing more comfortable on the offensive end and it takes multiple guys to have a chance at slowing him down. Another huge week for the Grizzlies two-way player.

Assignment Tracker

Memphis Hustle v Austin Spurs Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Xavier Tillman: It was a busy week for X, who recently told me he is the one who requested his assignment with the Hustle in order to stay ready for when his number is called. In 2 games, X averaged 19 points in 51.7% shooting to go along with 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Tillman shot just 25% from beyond the arc, shooting 2-8 across both games. Presumably an area of focus on his development, it will be interesting to see how his percentages are and if his attempts go up.

Kennedy Chandler: Chandler was a bit of a mixed bag in his Hustle debut but the overall feel after one game was positive for the rookie. Chandler dropped 14 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 10 assists while shooting 6-13 from the field. The one downside in Chandlers game was the 8 turnovers. Some of which were the result of rust and chemistry building, while others were a little more worrisome. Overall, though, Chandler showed the poise you like to see from a point guard in the G League, even if the numbers don’t totally back it up. More experience and game time with the Hustle (or Grizzlies) would likely fix the flaws like the turnovers.

Kenneth Lofton Jr.: The positives in Junior’s week were documented in the MVP of the Week. The negatives continue to be on the defensive end and taking care of the ball. Junior averaged 5 turnovers per game this past week with the Hustle with them once again being a mix of careless mistakes and questionable or frustrating offensive foul or travel calls as he works in the post. On the RGV broadcast, the Vipers coach openly admitted that targeting Junior defensively was a main point of emphasis for his team. As a two-way, you don’t want to be the main target of an opposing teams offensive game plan. It was overall a productive week for Junior, who is at least growing more effective defensively as he averaged 2 steals per game this past week.

Vince Williams Jr.: It was a rough week for the Grizzlies other two-way player as Vince Williams averaged just 8.5 points on 23.8% shooting across two games. Vince was able to pick up 2 steals per game but the defense was otherwise as underwhelming as the offense. A lot was asked of Vince (and X) travel wise this past week, but against Birmingham on Monday, Vince was crushed off the dribble and allowed the Squadron to get easy looks. Shining defensively can be difficult to do in the G League, but with the offensive struggles so far, Vince could use a few defensive highlights to boost some confidence. A clear sign that fatigue/travel could’ve been an issue for Vince is how much he settled for 3-pointers. Nearly 80% of his field goal attempts were from beyond the arc and most came up short as he shot just 18.8% from deep across two games.

Week 4 Preview

Lakeland Magic v Texas Legends Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

Memphis Hustle vs. Texas Legends (5-3) 11/29 7 PM CT

Memphis Hustle vs. Texas Legends (5-3) 11/30 7 PM CT

Game 8 & 9 Preview: The Memphis Hustle get a week off from their last game before facing off against the Texas Legends in a back-to-back next Tuesday and Wednesday. The Legends come into Southaven on a 2-game win streak (as of this writing) and have the new high scorer in the G League in Jaden Hardy (27.9 points per game). It will likely feature a fun scoring matchup between Hardy and Junior (27.2 ppg) but it will take a team effort on defense to slow down one of the G League’s top offenses. McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Dorsey both average 20+ points per game to create a difficult to stop 3-headed monster for the Legends. With the Grizzlies not playing on Tuesday, but on the road Wednesday, the availability of Xavier Tillman and Vince Williams could be critical to the Hustle’s success. Having those guys would surely help the Hustle defensively against a high powered offense.

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