One Of Those Losses That Doesn’t Feel So Bad
Anyone hates to lose. There’s no way around that. But when it’s a close, comeback loss to the top ranked team in the league, it’s not nearly as bad as it would be to lose to, say, Reno (who we thankfully beat last week). I was hoping the Jam didn’t deserve that number one spot. I was hoping that spot belonged to Golden State’s Richard Hendrix (who sadly was waived by the team) and DeMarcus Nelson. I was thinking I would come back after the game and rant and rant about how they aren’t nearly as good without those two guys. From what I saw last night that’s really not true.
Before I get into my game rant, I’ll talk a little about some things in the league that have happened recently. I don’t know how I didn’t mention this in my last post, but I saw Toree Morris at the local Target a few days before Christmas while I was out with the lady. What aisle was he in? The sport aisle! Of course! And a message to Jeff Potter (or as my girlfriend affectionately refers to him: “Tall Guy”): UPDATE YOUR DAMN BLOG! It was a good read! I can name plenty of people who agree and would love to see something new up there. Just take five minutes and write something up!
I thought it was interesting to find out that the Bakersfield used to belong to the new ABA (which I just found out has no affiliation with the original ABA) as the Long Beach Jam, and during the 2003-2004 won a championship on a team that included one Dennis Rodman. He was trying to make a comeback into the league after all of his crazy wrestling exploits and ridiculously embarrassing tenure on the Mavs. Interesting tidbit. Now, the Jam, as I mentioned above, are the number one team in the league according to power rankings, with just two losses in twelve games. 6-1 on the road always looks nice. However, they did have two Golden State draft picks on the team: Nelson and Hendrix. Nelson was leading the team in PPG and Hendrix in rebounds. Obviously important parts of the time. Well, Golden State recalled those guys, and from what I can tell this doesn’t bother the rest of the Jam at all. Center Nick Lewis was averaging 15.3 ppg and 7.3 boards a game coming into last night’s game and Trey Johnson followed closely behind with 15.2 ppg. Johnson was briefly signed to the Suns over the summer with our very own Coleman Colins. The teams’ starting point guard is former Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves, leading the team with just under 8 assists a game. His number was retired at MSU; sadly his success didn’t translate over to the NBA and he’s been a journeyman ever since. Derrick Byars is averaging 14.8 ppg, and was cut by the Thunder this preseason.
The Toros picked up our former point guard, Brian Morrison on Christmas day. That’s nice to see. I wish Brian the best. Chris Alexander left Sioux Falls, which I find odd. Alexander was a key ingredient to that team, one of my favorite D-League teams to watch. Now BIG NEWS. The Mad Ants waived Vernon Hamilton and signed DAVID BAILEY! This came as news to me. No official news was released, but apparently this all happened on Christmas Eve. Now, I must admit that I’m kinda sad that Hamilton never really got a fair chance with the team, but Bailey is simply a better point guard. I loved watching the 5-8 beast play for the Skyforce last season, and seeing him in yellow last night was just lovely. Also, Hamed Haddadi was recalled from the Wizards by Memphis. This baffled me as it didn’t look like Haddadi was getting too much playing time with the Wizards. I’d probably expect him to be waived by the Griz soon. Poor guy. I saw him play a preseason game in Indy with the Griz and he didn’t look all too bad. I was expecting him to be a star for Dakota. Also, the News Sentinel (local newspaper) reported that when the Pistons send down Ackers and Sharpe to the Ants in January, that they’re only expected to play four games for us. Anyone got any more word on this? That’s kinda disappointing. Oh well, I suppose the Pistons can do what they want haha.
Okay, now onto the game! I took a lot of notes on this one as I was trying not to talk all too much (wisdom teeth still bothering me, haven’t eaten solid foods in a long time – I’ve been living on milkshakes and soup!). I’ve never seen such a big crowd at a Mad Ants game before. That was nice to see. Bailey was looking really glad to be here before the game. He just seems like a really pleasant guy. I’m very glad to have him on our team and he didn’t disappoint last night. Hawkins started over Scott, a decision I’m starting to come around to. Hawkins is a great defender when he locks down, and Scott not so much. He shocked me to find that Nick Lewis was a white guy haha. I just wasn’t expecting that. Chris Hunter had a great first quarter but was in foul trouble early and ended the game with 12 points and seven boards. Trey Johnson didn’t let up the entire game. This kid can play. He moves very well without the ball and he’s ridiculously athletic. He dropped 33 points on us and sealed the win with a deep 2 with just four seconds left on the shot clock to increase their lead to 5.
There were a lot of bad calls in this game. Yes, it may just be because I’m a huge Ants fan, but I feel that our team gets shafted a lot. There are always moments when you wonder if the refs are watching the same game you are, and I found myself wondering this quite often last night. We had 30 fouls called against us. There’s a point where these guys just need to play basketball. Constant fouls really subtracts from the enjoyment of a game. I know a foul when a foul’s due, and there were many instances when they just weren’t due. Some of the officiating in this league is maddening. I see bad calls called on the other teams as well. It goes both ways, but I especially notice it when it’s in our direction.
I was watching Bailey closely tonight (and it’s hard not to – he’s the 5-8 guy with crazy hair) and he came in with about two minutes left in the first quarter and provided immediate energy. This guy can draw fouls like nobody’s business and it’s great to see that. He’s a great passer and cut the Jam’s lead down to 6 at the end of the first. Byars had 10 on the quarter. One example of the fouls getting out of control: 13/15 FT for the Jam. Nearly half of the Jam’s first quarter points came from free throws. Ridiculous. Johnson had 15 of his 33 from the charity strike.
Both Bailey and Walker Russell started the second quarter, and we saw this lineup a few other times throughout the game. Jackson was playing small tonight, and I liked what I saw out there. Sonderleiter was in for the second quarter, but we never saw him again after quite a productive five minutes off the bench. The game was within four points with 50 seconds left, but Terrance Thomas drained a three, we turned it over, and Thomas drains a drop two from nearly the same spot to increase the lead to 9 at the half.
We came out in the second half playing really tight D. Both teams were defending really well last night, but it looks like the Jam got the best of it. The Jam increased their lead to 16 with six minutes left in the quarter, but the Ants are known for a good rally or two and they didn’t disappoint. Ron Howard was having a pretty off night, but managed to score 16 on 12 shots. Chris Hunter was getting noticeably frustrated with all the fouls against him; fouls that he definitely did not deserve. All of our big guys were in foul trouble yet we only see Anthony Kent come in for 30 seconds (a half minute where he missed a shot and called for a foul). I would have liked to see some more Kent out there. Just 30 seconds? Third quarter just wasn’t our quarter. We weren’t getting good looks and Nick Lewis was starting to show his stuff (he finished with 21 and 10). Russell was missing lots of layups during this stretch and Scott wasn’t hitting for a while. However, we manage to make a run for it and get their lead down to 6 at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter was the best basketball I’ve seen all season thus far. We came out with Bailey, Russell, CC, Scott, and Hawkins all playing really tough D. Nothing was falling early for Russell. CC dunks over Lewis to bring the game within one point with 10 minutes left in the game. The Jam were starting to look worn out at this time, and Russell even got us a one point lead at one point. Scott looked great in the 4th and tied the game at 101 with a deep trey from the corner. The Jam then go on to score seven straight led by Johnson. Russell really started playing at the end of the fourth, bringing the game back within five at 1:46 left. Russell is at the foul line; we’re down by 5. He makes the first. Misses the second, but CC rebounds it and puts it back up and gets the bucket AND 1. Beautiful to see. Just like that it’s a one point game with 50 seconds left. Here is where Johnson drains that deep two to get the jam up three and put us away. We bring the ball down the court and Russell puts up a three but it’s not a good look and it just doesn’t go. 117-115 Final score. Jam win.
And of course I’m sad over the loss, but there’s a big part of me that’s happy with the way this one turned out. We played some great ball and gave the Jam a run for their money. But I do have some complaints (I’ll stop whining about the refs for now haha). The Jam had 18 turnover to our 12. How did we not capitalize on this? Also, the Jam had 48 boards to our 38. I understand we had a small lineup out there, but I saw many instances where no one even bothered to TRY. You’ve got to box out and go for the boards. You can say we lost the game just looking at that statistic.
Cleaves shot just 33% but managed to get 15 pts and 8 dimes. Collins had an off shooting night, getting 18 pts on 18 shots; but grabbed nine nice boards. Scott was a beast tonight, going 6-11 from treyland for 22 points. Bailey and Russell finished with 8 dimes apiece and I love the one-two punch these two points provide. I’m really looking forward to seeing them out there together more often. Overall great game. And I need a better way to be more concise in my writing and note taking. This is ridiculous! Have a great New Year everybody.