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The Utah Flash Out-Energy'd The Iowa Energy Last Night In the D-League Playoffs

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#7 Utah Flash 107, #1 Iowa Energy 76 (Box Score) Series: 1-0 UTA

I'm not going to bore you with an in-depth, 14 paragraph recap of a 31 point blowout (you're welcome), but I did watch every excruciating minute, so here are a few of my notes:

Utah didn't have one outstanding player, but most of their players played pretty solid.  Iowa had one outstanding player, but nobody else was able to hit a shot.  That's the story of this game - Not necessarily the lack of Iowa depth, because Iowa coach Nick Nurse never really goes deep into his bench anyway, but the lack of starters being able to produce.  This, of course, has a lot to do with the Energy losing almost their entire team to the NBA as I noted in my preview.  A team is just not going to win by shooting less than 37% from the field.

For the playoffs, I think I'm going to go with a new format, telling you all about my three stars of the game before the jump and my three, um... Nonstars of the game, after the jump.  If they weren't of the three best or the three worst players in said game, check the box score!

  • Brian Hamilton was the best player for the Flash, as he came off the bench to score 18 points and add 12 rebounds along with four blocks and two steals in 26 minutes of action.  You probably don't know much about Hamilton because we've rarely talked about him this season, so I'm going to direct you to this wonderfully written article from Matthew Brennan way back in 2008.  Looking at his Eurobasket profile, Hamilton came out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2005, played 10 games in the USBL with the Pennsylvania Valley Dawgs then tried out for the Austin Toros and the then-CBA Sioux Falls Skyforce, but didn't make either team.  From there, he took a two-season sabbatical and the rest, as they say, is history.  Actually, the rest includes a mediocre season with the Flash where he led the league in steals after making the team via open tryout, going to camp with New Jersey, playing in the Phillipines, trying out for Memphis, going to camp with New Jersey again and then finally we get to this season.  Interesting path to be sure, but after his game last night, it might just pay off.
  • Kevin Kruger wasn't particularly awesome - 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go with seven boards and just four assists - but he did keep the team together after falling behind early.  He shot 3-of-7 from beyond the arc, as well, which isn't bad production from a typical pass-first point guard.  The biggest of those 3-pointers came with 6:07 left in the first half and wasn't exactly a pretty play, but it did end with a pretty result for the home teams - specifically, Utah's first lead.  Brian Hamilton stripped the ball threw it ahead to Andre Ingram, Ingram shot-faked and got his man in the air before passing to Kruger for an ugly lean-in three from the top of the key.  With that shot, it seemed, the momentum was swung for the rest of the game in favor of the Flash.
  • Curtis Stinson, as Matt Brennan pointed out in his recap of sorts, was probably the best player on the court - in the first quarter alone, he had already racked up eight points and eight rebounds while leading Iowa to a 17-15 lead.  It's never been doubted that Stinson has the talent to play at a high level and he showed why in this game - scoring almost at will, playing solid defense and contributing all over the box score - he led the Energy in points (24), rebounds (12) and assists (7) while shooting 11-of-20 from the field and wisely deciding not to get in on the 3-point bricklaying contest of which his teammates competed.

And now for my three Nonstars (kind of like Monstars, but the opposite):

  • Pat Carroll, as I tweeted during the game, is no Matt Carroll.  What do I mean by that?  Pat shot 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, a shot that is normally his specialty as he hit 75-of-177 from 3-point land during the regular season.  Many of those misses came early in the game on wide-open attempts which, in retrospect, could have easily kept the momentum in the Energy's favor.  If the Energy are going to win another game this season, Carroll is going to have to step up.
  • Speaking of players needing to step up, Taylor Griffin is supposed to be an NBA player, but he was never even close to being the best player on the court during this game.  After learning of him being assigned earlier in the day from the Phoenix Suns, I legitimately thought about changing my pick to the Energy in three games simply because Griffin conceivably filled one of their holes and they were already used to playing a bit shorthanded anyway.  Unfortunately, the best thing Griffin did in this game was get out of the way to avoid being dunked on at 1:24 of the above highlights.  In 23-plus minutes off the bench, Griffin shot 0-for-4 from the field, 0-for-4 from the free-throw line and committed four fouls while adding just two rebounds.  As far as positives, he did typically hustle.
  • Luke Nevill, even though he played for the winning team, gets my third Nonstar of the game.  He simply didn't look like he wanted it at all, leading commenter Joana to say "Why can't #41 for Utah establish position deeper? The guy defending him is about half his size and is guarding him straight up. Can't even seal decently. Waste of size."  Utah did give him opportunities, dumping it down low repeatedly to begin the second half, though all Nevill could do was muster weak hook shots on three straight attempts - to his credit, one went in, though he finished just 2-of-9 from the field in a game that he should have been able to dominate.