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The Hustle Report: Back in the playoff picture

A 5-2 road trip has the Hustle right back in the thick of the playoff race

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Memphis Hustle v Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Week 10 Results

South Bay Lakers 129 vs. Memphis Hustle 119 (9-16)

Agua Caliente Clippers 104 vs. Memphis Hustle 116 (10-16)

Agua Caliente Clippers 114 vs. Memphis Hustle 118 (11-16)

Week 10 Headlines

  • Grizzlies transfer Yves Pons to Hustle
  • Hustle waive Charles Matthews, activate David Stockton

Game 25 Breakdown

Memphis Hustle v Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Shaq Buchanan- 23 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
  • Ahmad Caver- 23 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals
  • Reggie Hearn- 14 points, 4 rebounds
  • Santi Aldama- 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
  • Ben Moore- 10 points, 7 rebounds

The Hustle stumbled in their trip to face off against the South Bay Lakers. The two teams had 12 lead changes throughout the first 3 quarters, but the Lakers used a strong 42-28 4th quarter to run away with the win. It was a valiant effort by the Hustle, who ultimately couldn’t stop the Mason Jones, Jay Huff and Mac McClung trio. The South Bay trio scored 20+ points a piece and was enough to sneak out a win against Memphis.

Game 26 Breakdown

Memphis Hustle v Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Damien Jefferson- 22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Ben Moore- 21 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Santi Aldama- 21 points, 7 rebounds
  • Shaq Buchanan- 16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
  • Ahmad Caver- 16 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists

The Hustle won their first game against the Agua Caliente Clippers thanks to a hot shooting night from beyond the arc. The Hustle made 12 of their 30 shot attempts from beyond the arc, with Damien Jefferson making 4 of them. The Hustle led by as many as 18 but the Clippers were able to cut into the lead but the Hustle held on for the win. It was a good surprise to see the Hustle win without Shaq or Ahmad having to be the leading scorers. Finding guys to go to offensively outside of those two will help the Hustle down the stretch.

Game 27 Breakdown

Memphis Hustle v Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Shaq Buchanan- 24 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals
  • Damien Jefferson- 23 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Santi Aldama- 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks
  • Ahmad Caver- 15 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists
  • Ben Moore- 9 points, 8 rebounds

The Hustle were able to pull off the sweep against the Clippers and wrap up the road trip with a 5-2 record. The Hustle were able to defeat the Clippers despite strong efforts from Xavier Moon (27 points) and Keaton Wallace (23 points). The teams had 8 ties and 16 lead changes in what was an exciting game on Sunday. Ultimately, the Hustle were able to pull away late in 4th as they came back to outscore the Clippers 32-23 in the final frame.

Hustle Stats

51: Despite the 2-1 week against tough competition, there is one glaring weakness the team struggled with during the week. The Hustle turned the ball over 51 times in 3 games, with two different 20 turnover games. Outside of February 8th against Birmingham, it was the highest turnover outings of the season. What makes it even more worrisome is that both Shaq Buchanan and Ahmad Caver turned the ball over 14 times a piece, combining for 28 of the 51 turnovers. It’s not ideal when the two vets are more than 50% of your turnovers, even if part of it is due to the high usage. Both Shaq and Ahmad have the track record though where the last week was uncharacteristic and not a long term concern for them or the team.

MVP of the Week - Shaq Buchanan

Memphis Hustle v Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Shaq Buchanan was fantastic this past week, just like he has been all season. He averaged 21 points on 46.7% shooting and 41.1% from beyond the arc. In addition to the scoring, Buchanan averaged 7 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Buchanan and Caver have both grown as all around players in their years with the Hustle. Two weeks ago, Caver shined. This past week? It was Shaq.

Assignment Tracker

Iowa Wolves v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Santi Aldama: It was another solid week for Santi Aldama as he averaged 18.3 points, 7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1 steal and 2.3 blocks per game. Aldama flashes potential on both ends of the court. His outside shot wasn’t falling, shooting just 2-10 from beyond the arc, but he didn’t force the 3-point shot like he had done earlier in his assignments. He had two 0-2 games from deep, and decided to attack the basket more and it resulted in a high success rate. He’ll need to find consistency with his 3-point shot, but it’s good to see him take advantage of his size and dominate in the paint. Aldama shot 19-29 from inside the arc (66%) proving his value despite the 3-pointer not falling.

Yves Pons: Pons joined the Hustle on the final game of their road trip. Pons finished the game with 7 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists. Pons shot just 3-9 from the field and 1-5 from beyond the arc. Pons’ athleticism shines at the G League level, as he’s a menace defensively and able to crash the glass. I’d like to see Pons be more efficient with his shot selection, though. 35 of Pons’ 68 shots with the Hustle this year have been from beyond the arc and Pons has made just 9 of them, good for 25.7%. Pons focusing on knocking down 3-point shots is likely part of his assignment process (practice makes perfect!) but Pons at times forces shots that just aren’t good shots for a player with his shooting skill. Jason March, similar to Taylor Jenkins, preaches the Let It Fly mentality on good looks. Unfortunately, Pons hasn’t been able to execute on those looks.

Week 11 Preview

Memphis Hustle vs Salt Lake City Stars Photo by Jeff Swinger/NBAE via Getty Images

Salt Lake City Stars (7-18) at Memphis Hustle 3/16 7:00 PM CT

Rio Grande Valley Vipers (20-6) vs. Memphis Hustle 3/19 7:30 PM CT

Rio Grande Valley Vipers (20-6) vs. Memphis Hustle 3/21 7:30 PM CT

Game 28 Preview: The Hustle return home from their 7-game road trip with a quick home stand against the Salt Lake City Stars. The Stars, owners of the worst record in the Western Conference, can’t be a team the Hustle overlook. 2 of the Stars 7 victories have come against the Hustle, thanks to a back-to-back in SLC back in mid January. Carsen Edwards has been dominant offensively, a top 5 scorer in the G League averaging 26 points per game. The Hustle will need to slow him down after he averaged 22.5 points against the Hustle and shooting 43.8% from beyond the arc. The Hustle will need to take care of business at home and not look ahead to some big matchups later in the week.

Games 29 & 30 Preview: Following the game against the Stars, the Hustle will make a 3-game Texas road trip, including 2 games against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Vipers, with the best record in the Western Conference, are led by two-way player Trevelin Queen (25.3 ppg) and two-way player turned assignment player Daishen Nix (20.6 ppg). The Vipers also get solid production from NBA vet Gerald Green (16.9 ppg) and Marcus Foster (16.6 ppg). The Vipers have one of the best offensive attacks in the G League and the Hustle will need to slow them down as they try to climb in the standings. The Hustle did have success against the Vipers leading up to the Showcase Cup, winning both matchups in Southaven.

The Hustle will enter the week just 2 games out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. They will need to take care of business against the SLC Stars tonight, especially with two tough matchup’s against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. A 2-1 week for the Hustle would set them up to really make a run in the final 6 games. Competition will be stiff as there are 9 teams fighting for really the final 3 playoff spots.

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