I filled in for our Memphis Hustle beat writer — and fellow associate editor — Brandon Abraham for tonight’s game between the Memphis Hustle and Austin Spurs. It was also one of the most fun nights of the year: Hustle and Hounds nights. Lots of good doggos in the arena.
The Hustle was looking to avenge its loss to the Spurs from Wednesday night. Worth noting, the G-League trade deadline was yesterday, and they had dealt Cameron Young — one of the team’s leading scorers — to acquire some assets, which were a 1st round pick this season and an extra roster spot to bring in more talent. On top of that, they were dealing with injuries to Freddie Gillespie, Ben Moore, Sean McDermott, and Memphis Grizzlies two-way player Tyrell Terry. So they were going to be a smidge shorthanded.
Can they bounce back in Friday night’s rematch?
The Hustle and Spurs started out the game by hitting a parade of 3’s, each opening the game with a pair of triples. The Hustle, in particular, had 12 of their first 16 points come from behind the arc. There was a lot of high energy on both sides of the floor, as the Hustle were using their defensive activity to turn into transition offense. Unfortunately, the Spurs ended up closing the quarter on a 17-3 run to end the period with a 32-25 lead.
The offensive woes continued for the Hustle in the 2nd quarter, as they only scored 6 points in the first 6 minutes of the period. The Spurs were taking advantage of the Hustle’s missed shots and turnovers to fuel easy offense in transition. Shaq Buchanan and Ahmad Caver did a great job of getting and finishing downhill, but they couldn’t hit the outside shots to make the opposing team pay for collapsing inside. The Hustle ended the half trailing 70-41.
The Memphis Hustle came out in the 3rd quarter with more urgency, with Reggie Hearn and EJ Onu attacking from outside the arc and inside the paint. Onu had 2 strong dives to the rim for jams off the pick-and-roll, and he also hit a catch-and-shoot 3 above the break. The Hustle took advantage of the Spurs’ struggling offense, as they cut the deficit to 18 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The Hustle’s urgency continued in the 4th quarter, as they looked to complete the rally. Behind Shaq Buchanan and Ahmad Caver, the Hustle were able to get downhill and get shots from the free throw line. The Hustle’s comeback efforts were strong but not enough, as they fell to the Spurs, 114-105.
- Short-handed, as previously mentioned. The Hustle could've used extra bodies in this one. As the season starts to wind down, I wonder if they try to shuffle players on and off the roster to get some extra looks.
- EJ Onu is compelling. EJ Onu was a fascinating undrafted prospect in last year’s draft as a 7’1” big man with a long wingspan and intriguing block and 3-point rates, but was an unknown commodity since he went to a small school (Shawnee State). He’s now in Southaven showing cool stuff. He flirted with a triple-double (15 points, 11 rebounds, 8 blocks). He has good timing on blocks and can be automatic inside the paint. He can be an interesting two-way guy to watch over the next year or so.
- Reggie Hearn is a solid glue piece for Hustle. With a G-League season so unique, and with a roster that’s shuffling almost nonstop, a G-League veteran like Reggie Hearn is good to have. He can, and will, shoot 3’s — which opens the floor more. He’s a wing with good size to rebound and to defend across positions, and he can add a dose of tertiary playmaking as well. Hearn finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.
- Shaq Buchanan and Ahmad Caver are #good. Buchanan and Caver are the driving forces of this team. The offense goes as they go, and they did a great job of getting downhill and creating opportunities through their scoring and playmaking. Both players have grown a lot into these go-to roles, which helped them earn deserved call-up’s in the “replacement player” winter. Buchanan finished with 28 points, while Caver finished with 18 points and 13 assists.
The Hustle will be returning to action tomorrow night in Southaven, as they take on the Sioux Falls Skyforce at 7PM CST for Grizzlies night.
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