The Memphis Hustle hopes some California sunshine will shake the Memphis Grizzlies’ NBA G League franchise out of the team’s current doldrums this week.
The Hustle, which dropped its third-straight contest in a 117-112 decision to the Erie Bayhawks Saturday night at the Landers Center in Southaven, have a two-game series this week with the Agua Caliente Clippers in Ontario, Calif.
Saturday's defeat followed a Friday loss to Salt Lake City, 100-96, in the team’s first appearance at FedExForum in Memphis. Marquis Teague led the Hustle with 19 points Friday night.
Memphis will play Agua Caliente, the Los Angeles Clippers’ affiliate, out west Tuesday and Thursday night before heading home to Southaven for a game at noon Saturday against the Delaware 87ers.
The early game time Saturday will allow the Landers Center to get ready for a Mississippi RiverKings hockey game later that evening.
Saturday’s loss dropped the Hustle into third place in the Western Conference’s Midwest Division entering the week.
Memphis is just a game away from the first-place Sioux Falls (S.D.) Skyforce, however. The Skyforce have a 4-4 record, followed by Oklahoma City in second place in the division standings.
Saturday night, Kobi Simmons led the Hustle with 16 points, one of eight Memphis players in double figures. Simmons hit two of three from the three-point line and was six of 10 from the floor.
The contest saw 19 lead changes and 15 ties, indicating the closeness of the game throughout.
“Once you get the lead, you’ve got to push that lead to seven and to nine and we never did that, never got to the point where they were uncomfortable,” said Hustle coach Glynn Cyprien after the game. “The only way you do that is good defense and tonight, defensively, we weren’t very good.”
Simmons commented that the Hustle know that closing out contests is one area they need to improve on.
“We’ve got to do a better job at finishing,” Simmons said. “That’s key at the end of the game and overall, just finishing the game.”
Finishing and rebounding was another area Cyprien talked about in his post-game comments, noting it’s something his team is addressing.
“We work on finishes. We constantly talk about finishing around the rim and we’ve got to get better at that,” Cyprien said. “When Ivan (Rabb) was healthy, we were the best rebounding team in the league. We’ve got to get Ivan rebounding and Austin (Nichols) rebounding and hitting the glass.”
Cyprien added even his guards need to get involved, noting that the backcourt players should be targeting long rebounds for a team that was out rebounded by the Bayhawks 30-26 Saturday night.
Another area that hurt the Hustle was at the free throw line, where they shot a season-low 62.1 percent on 18-of-29 attempts.
But four players did contribute with double-digit figures off the bench for Memphis, led by Ivan Rabb and Trahson Burrell, each with 14.
Saturday’s game also marked the insertion of forward Jarell Martin into the Hustle lineup. The Grizzlies assigned Martin to the Hustle before tipoff and he responded with 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting with a pair of three-point shots and made his only free throw attempt.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.