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The Hustle Report: The Final Stretch

It all comes down to this.

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

Week 12 Results

Texas Legends 121 vs. Memphis Hustle 112 (14-17)

Rio Grande Valley Vipers 128 at Memphis Hustle 115 (14-18)

Stockton Kings 115 at Memphis Hustle 123 (15-18)

Game 31 Breakdown

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

Key Stats

  • Ahmad Caver- 32 points, 4 assists
  • Ben Moore- 14 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Damien Jefferson- 14 points, 3 rebounds
  • Shaq Buchanan- 11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists
  • David Stockton- 10 points, 4 assists, 2 steals

The Hustle dropped a big game in Texas against the Legends over the weekend. It was a close battle that saw 11 ties and 10 lead changes, but a 44 point 4th quarter helped propel the Legends to victory. The Legends got a big performance from Olin Carter III (7-12 from 3) who dropped 31 points. Justin Jackson (25 points) and Carlik Jones (20 points) were also heavily involved offensively. The Hustle defense just collapsed in the 4th, allowing the Legends to run away with the win. It was a theme we’ve seen a bit too often this season for the Hustle, where they just struggle to play a full 48 minutes. It feels like there is always that “one quarter” that gets away from them and is the difference in the game.

Game 32 Breakdown

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

Key Stats

  • Santi Aldama- 36 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals
  • Ahmad Caver- 15 points, 8 assists, 2 steals
  • Shaq Buchanan- 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists
  • Sean McDermott- 10 points, 2 assists, 3 steals

The Hustle lost a pivotal game to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Monday that took control of their playoff fate out of their hands. Aldama was fantastic for the Hustle who led by as many as 13 early in the 3rd quarter, before a Vipers run helped them run away with a second half lead. The Vipers shot 18-52 from beyond the arc, outscoring the Hustle by 24 from deep. The 3-point shooting also affected the rebounding battle (Vipers won 59-38), as the long boards went the Vipers way and created some second chance opportunities from deep. You can check out my full recap here.

Game 33 Breakdown

Memphis Hustle vs Rio Grande Valley Vipers Photo by Christian Inoferio/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Santi Aldama- 23 points, 15 rebounds
  • Damien Jefferson- 20 points (4-8 from deep)
  • Shaq Buchanan- 19 points, 3 assists, 2 steals
  • Ahmad Caver- 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks
  • David Stockton- 14 points, 4 assists

The Hustle picked up a much needed win in the penultimate game of the regular season. They defeated the Stockton Kings after a strong second second half. The Hustle got strong performances from their “Big 3” in Santi, Shaq and Ahmad, but it came down to a strong bench performance by Damien Jefferson and David Stockton. In total, the Hustle bench outscored the Kings 50-35. The win keeps the Hustle playoff hopes alive as they head into their final game of the regular season.

Playoff Scenario

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

The Hustle will have to sit and wait for a few days to figure out their potential path to the playoffs. Either way the Hustle will need to defeat the Birmingham Squadron on Saturday and a loss by the Kings. The Kings play the Squadron tonight and then the Salt Lake City Stars on Saturday. The Hustle need the Kings to lose one of those games. If the Kings lose either game, and the Hustle win on Saturday, then they should clinch a spot in the playoff thanks to tie-breakers against the Kings and other competing teams.

MVP of the Week - Ahmad Caver

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

After struggling shooting the ball in his first few games returning from injury, Caver has been on an absolute heater for the Hustle since. In 3 games last week, Caver averaged 21.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, in addition to 1.7 blocks per game. Caver does a little bit of everything for the Hustle and his growth this season has been fantastic.

Assignment Tracker

Memphis Hustle vs Rio Grande Valley Vipers Photo by Christian Inoferio/NBAE via Getty Images

Santi Aldama: Aldama appeared in just 2 of 3 games for the Hustle this week and averaged 29.5 points and 13 rebounds per game. Aldama shot 21-39 (53.8%) from the field and 3-9 from beyond the arc. What stood out the most was his ability to crash the offensive glass and give the Hustle second chance points as Aldama picked up 13 offensive rebounds in just 2 games.

Yves Pons: Pons appeared in all 3 games for the Hustle averaging 6.7 points and 4 rebounds. Pons shot 8-22 from the field with some thunderous dunks. After criticizing his 3-point shooting the other week, Pons continues to shoot it better since. He went 4-12 from deep last week with the shots coming more in the flow of the offense.

Week 13 Preview

Memphis Hustle v Birmingham Squadron Photo by Mercedes Oliver/NBAE via Getty Images

Birmingham Squadron at Memphis Hustle 4/2 7:00 PM CT

Game 34 Preview: The Squadron/Kings game will have play a huge role in the way the Hustle approach Saturday’s game. Santi Aldama’s availability will likely depend on the Hustle’s playoff chances. If the Hustle have a shot to make the playoffs, the Grizzlies figure to make him available but if the Hustle are out of the playoffs then they may keep him up with the big league squad. Under the assumption the Hustle go for the win regardless, they’ll need to put forth the defensive effort they had in the second half against Stockton. Joe Young, Jared Harper and Justin Wright-Foreman are fantastic shooters on the offensive end and figure to be a ton of trouble for the Hustle. Down low, Zach Hankins will be a physical presence especially if the Hustle are without Aldama.

Regardless of what happens tonight, Saturday’s regular season finale figures to be a heck of a game.

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