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Recap: Hustle don’t bend the knee, defeat the Kings 123-115

The Hustle keep their playoff hopes alive after a win against Stockton

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Stockton Kings v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Hustle turn around following last night’s loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers with a “must win” game against the Stockton Kings in Southaven. No longer the controllers of their own destiny, the Hustle need a win against Stockton (and some help around the league) to keep their playoff hopes alive. Entering the night, the Hustle trail the Kings by 2 games for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference playoff race. With 7 teams fighting for the final 2 spots, it’s going to be a wild end to the G League season with the Hustle hopefully living to fight for another day.

The Hustle enter the matchup 2-0 against the Kings on the season, but nothing comes easy against one of the best defensive teams in the G League. Having Santi Aldama and Yves Pons will help the Hustle, especially with the Kings not having any two-way players or assignment guys available to them. NBA veteran Quinn Cook leads the Stockton offense as they look to solidify a spot in the playoffs.

It was a solid start for the Hustle who jumped out to an early 6 point lead in the opening minutes of the quarter. The Hustle used a strong quarter by Ahmad Caver to hover around a 6 point lead until the Kings made a Quinn Cook sparked run to take a slim lead midway through the quarter. Cook scored 11 of the Kings first quarter points. The Hustle were able to respond to the Kings run and regain the lead rather quickly. The Kings went on a free throw laden run to end the first, but a David Stockton buzzer beater from mid-court cut the Kings lead down to just 1 at the end of the first quarter where the Kings led 33-32.

The Kings went on a run to start the 2nd quarter, taking a 6 point lead by the midway point of the period. The Hustle used a 9-0 run late in the quarter to retake the lead thanks to some exciting plays to get the Landers Center crowd on their feet. Shaq Buchanan followed a tough and-one opportunity with a fast break alley oop finish and then Santi Aldama responded with a steal and slam to force a Kings timeout. The Kings hit a couple of 3-pointers in the final minute of the quarter to take a 67-65 lead into the halftime break.

It was an intense first half that saw 14 lead changes and 4 ties. Santi Aldama (13 points, 8 rebounds) Ahmad Caver (13 points, 6 assists) and Shaq Buchanan (11 points) paced the Hustle offense, while the Kings got 13 points from Quinn Cook and 10 points a piece from Emanuel Terry, Matt Coleman III and Sheldon Mac.

Both teams came out firing to start the second half, matching each other basket for basket through the first 6 minutes of the quarter as Stockton held onto a slim lead. The teams traded baskets the entire quarter, with the Hustle using a late mini-run to take the lead heading into the 4th quarter.

The Hustle came out hungry to start the 4th, and built their lead up to 9 points in the opening minutes of the quarter. Damien Jefferson helped lead the charge with a couple of triples and a big time layup as the Hustle lead extended to double digits, at least briefly. The Hustle were able to maintain a 9-point lead until a mini-Stockton run helped them make it a 5 point game with just over 3 minutes left in the game. The Hustle led 116-111 when Stockton ran out on a fast break opportunity when Ahmad Caver came flying to block Quinn Cook’s shot in the final minutes of the game. Cook, arguing for a goaltend, picked up his second technical of the game and was ejected. A potential 3-point game was quickly an 8-point game as the Hustle were able to execute down the stretch and come away with a huge win against the Stockton Kings. The Hustle 123-115 win keeps their playoff hopes alive with a lot of games to be played between tonight and Saturday’s season finale.

With tonight’s win, and Birmingham defeating the Iowa Wolves, the Squadron clinched a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The quick math on the rest of the week for the Hustle to make the playoffs: they need to defeat the Birmingham Squadron on Saturday and for the Stockton Kings to lose one of their games against the Squadron or the Salt Lake City Stars. If that happens, the Hustle should clinch the 6-seed. For now, we wait until Saturday.

Quick Hitters

Damien Jefferson was a great pickup. Jefferson started the season with the Stockton Kings and then dropped 20 points on them tonight with the Hustle, including 4-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Jefferson was picked up when the Hustle had a long list of injuries, and has really made a name for himself as a 3 and D guy off the bench.

The Hustle go as Shaq and Ahmad go. Although it was a run with Shaq, Ahmad and Santi on the bench that helped the Hustle get the lead in the second half, it was the trio’s efforts all game long that helped them seal the victory. Aldama was strong in the 2nd quarter en route to his 23 point, 15 rebound performance. Shaq Buchanan was excellent in the 3rd helping the Hustle keep pace as he finished with 19 points. Ahmad Caver was all over the place, especially in the 4th as he finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 blocks to help carry the Hustle to victory.

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