Rumor has it Greg Stiemsma will workout in Minnesota tomorrow. Unsure what that does to his status tonight, if anything. -- Scott
Well this is a pretty terrible piece of scheduling. Both of these teams played yesterday afternoon in Tulsa, then had to fly up to Sioux Falls to play game 2 tonight. Meanwhile, the Rio Grande Valley/Reno series doesn't even start until tomorrow. Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?
Anyway, Tulsa took the first game 119-109, behind a combined 90 points from their four NBA assignees. The series now moves to Sioux Falls, though, and as I mentioned in yesterday's recap, the Skyforce played well on the whole; they're certainly not out of this series yet. In keeping with Scott's rule of three, here are three things each team needs to do to win tonight's game.
Keep Greg Stiemsma out of foul trouble: Stiemsma was balling in the first half yesterday, then picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter and sat for the rest of the game. He's no stranger to that situation, as he averaged four fouls a game this year. Part of this is because he's so confident in his skills as a shot-blocker (and with good reason), that he contests pretty much every shot. Sioux Falls has the depth to make up for his absences in theory, but given Tulsa's own size and that the Skyforce need to win two straight games, they can't afford to have Stiemsma play less than 30 minutes.
The big men need to hit the boards: This is somewhat related to the first one, as keeping Stiemsma in the game will help the team's rebounding, but the 6'5" Jared Newson can't lead the team both in offensive and total rebounding again. The 66ers have some strong rebounders of their own, but guys like Raymond Sykes and Joe Krabbenhoft need to do a better job of fighting for boards. Just pulling even with Tulsa in that category isn't good enough. I'd also include Nathan Jawai in that, but he spends a lot of time in the midrange, so he's not always in the best position to hit the offensive glass.
Shoot, shoot, shoot: Sioux Falls combined to shoot just 10 three-pointers, which is too low for the kind of talent they have. Kirk Penney and Mike Nelson are both very good three-point shooters, and while David Bailey and Leemire Goldwire don't have great percentages this year, both of those guys have been able to hit from outside in the past. The Skyforce can turn up the pressure on Tulsa by bombing away from outside, and maybe force them to try and keep up; there are some good shooters on Tulsa's bench, but Kyle Weaver shouldn't go 5-6 from outside again. Sioux Falls has the advantage in that department.
Hit the jump for Tulsa's side of the equation:
Keep attacking the basket: As I wrote above, Kyle Weaver isn't going to keep shooting 83 percent from outside; while he's improved a bit in that area this year, his career number is still below 35 percent. Instead, he and Mustafa Shakur need to keep driving to the rim. Sioux Falls doesn't have great perimeter defenders; Chris McCray is alright, but he's not a world-beater. Driving to the rim also should draw defenders and open up midrange and outside shots for guys like D.J. White, Byron Mullens, Larry Owens and Moses Ehambe, and maybe gets some of the Skyforce's big men into foul trouble.
Keep taking care of the ball: Tulsa turned the ball over just 10 times as a team yesterday, which is insanely low for the number of possessions that they had. The thing is, Sioux Falls wasn't that much worse in that department (15, which again isn't that bad, possession-wise). Shakur and Weaver are both good ball-handlers, but the 66ers need to make sure that guys like Mullens, DeVon Hardin and Deron Washington aren't either bobbling passes away or barreling into defenders for offensive fouls. If they can keep the Skyforce from getting free possessions, that will increase the pressure and maybe lead to some desperation plays.
Don't be afraid to go the bench: The assignments of D.J. White and Kyle Weaver make this team crazily deep. Guys who could start for other D-League teams like Ehambe and Washington played in the 11 minute range in game 1. Nate Tibbetts should use that to his advantage and wear the Skyforce down with his bench depth. Marcus Lewis and Latavious Williams both can contribute up front, Ehambe and Cecil Brown can flat-out shoot, Washington and Hardin can cause havoc with their athleticism. As much as Tibbetts may want so use his NBA talent to run Sioux Falls out of the building, in the long run it will be better for his squad if he can get everyone contributing and keep his starters fresh.