Seven games tonight, featuring matchups that are repeats of games from the last several days. Will the outcomes change?
Maine Red Claws at Springfield Armor
The Red Claws won the last game in a walk, but Springfield actually played them close in the second and third quarters. Some warning signs for Maine from that game are the poor three-point shooting (just 1-12) and the huge disparity in foul shots - they likely won't get that advantage again. The Armor have to rebound a lot better to stay in this game, and they also need to get a larger contribution from their bench - Springfield reserved totaled just 11 points, six boards and two assists. That starts with Major Wingate, who fouled out much, much too quickly. Kentrell Gransberry isn't really a guy who can play 35 minutes and James Cripe hasn't contributed much this year, just 12 points and nine rebounds over three games. Wingate is talented, and if he can stay on the court he can help his team.
Rio Grande Valley Vipers at Tulsa 66ers
Antonio Anderson and Moses Ehambe got double technicals in the fourth quarter of last night's game, so both teams will have to make sure they keep cool in this one. RGV's three-point shooting has steadily increased over the first three games of the season, and even in the last one when they shot over 40 percent as a team, Garrett Temple missed seven of his 11 outside attempts. That could go either way, with Temple making a higher percentage or the rest of the team not picking up his slack. Wasn't that insightful? Joey Dorsey started the last game slowly, and Byron Mullens and DeVon Hardin were able to combine for 18 rebounds. Dorsey will have to pick his game up tonight. Latavious Williams has gotten DNPs in the last two games. Free Latavious Williams!
Erie BayHawks at Sioux Falls Skyforce
Greg Stiemsma rebounded and defended pretty well when these two teams played last night, but I'm still skeptical that he can keep it up. His 16 rebounds were more than three times his previous high this season, and he averaged just six a game last season. He's also been pretty terrible offensively so far, shooting just .273, so if the Erie big men can keep him off the boards (and they at least have the talent to do so) they could fare better in this one. The BayHawks actually started strong in the last game but faded over the course of the game. Cedric Jackson has been steadily improving as a point guard, increasing his assists with each game and cutting down on his turnovers. Jackie Manuel has been shooting over his career average in every area, and Ivan Harris is starting to get on track. This rematch could go the other way.
Austin Toros at Albuquerque Thunderbirds
Albuquerque won last night with a strong fourth quarter performance and solid games from two guys who have a history of inconsistent performances, namely Yaroslav Korolev and Keith McLeod. McLeod had the third-worst field goal percentage on the Thunderbirds last season among guys who played more than 10 games, and the second-worst eFG; Korolev has a history of poor shot selection in the NBA and in Summer League. Carlos Powell should be a call-up candidate, certainly (and I will have a list of those coming, I'm just waiting until teams have played more than a handful of games), but Austin has a lot of talent of their own. Malik Hairston is on assignment and is capable of dropping 40 on any given night. Alonzo Gee is a very solid offensive player, and while Curtis Jerrells has his off nights he runs the pick and roll fairly well. The addition of Hairston should be enough to keep Albuquerque from sweeping this mini-series.
Dakota Wizards at Idaho Stampede
The Wizards won this game in part by limiting the number of possessions - each team had 104, which is generally high but fairly low for a Bob MacKinnon-coached team like the Stampede. Dakota also either forced or were the recipients of poor outside shooting nights from Idaho's Anthony Tolliver, Mildon Ambres and Roberto Bergersen, while shooting almost 69 percent from behind the arc themselves. That high shooting percentage isn't all that sustainable, but the Wizards have perhaps the strongest group of defenders in the D-League, and Curtis Withers should play a lot better than his six-point, five-turnover outing. Idaho has gotten good performances so far from Mike Gansey and Sundiata Gaines, who could start for most, if not all of the rest of the league. Like Albuquerque last night, the Wizards used a terrific fourth quarter to take the last game, but they'll do well to not dig themselves into a hole once again.
Utah Flash at Bakersfield Jam
I really don't know what to write about the Jam. They had a fairly weak roster to begin with, and take out Robert Swift and suddenly they have problems in the middle as well. Bakersfield coach Will Voigt got a technical in the last game and was ejected in the game before that, but at some point you have to stop going to the "get mad enough to maybe wake your team up" well. The Flash have a very talented roster top-to-bottom, even without Luke Nevill and Gavin Grant; Orien Greene has played well after a shaky first game, Lee Cummard seems to have figured out how to contribute off the bench, and Jason Richards has been racking up the assists compared to his playing time. A lot of things will have to go wrong for them for the Jam to get their first win tonight.
Los Angeles D-Fenders at Reno Bighorns
The thing about having inconsistent scorers is that they do play well on occasion - such is it with LA's roster. Dar Tucker is shooting just .150 on three-pointers so far, and it's not like he hasn't been shooting them; who knows, maybe he's due. Reno seems to have found its footing a little bit now that they can help dictate the pace of the game rather than have to race to keep up. LA's Michael Fey was scoring pretty well until he met up against Rod Benson, who shut him down in the last game. Benson's been a rebounding monster so far and incredibly efficient offensively, so he'll again be a handful for Fey and Longar Longar. Reno's Russell Robinson hasn't been shooting particularly well (from inside the three-point line, anyway) but seems to have gotten his turnovers under control. Then again, it was tempting to say that Desmon Farmer's nine turnover game came because he was playing against Idaho, then he goes out and turns it over eight times against the D-Fenders. I also wouldn't expect another nine blocks from Cezary Trybanski, nor will Ryan Forehan-Kelly go 0-the game again. The D-Fenders can win this one if some of their questionable shots go down, but they're called questionable for a reason.