Psychologically and mathematically, the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix have the Tokyo Apache’s number.
The teams have met six times this season, and five of those games have been one-sided victories for coach Kazuo Nakamura’s club, including Sunday’s 87-72 home win. In those five wins, Hamamatsu has beaten Tokyo by an average of 29.2 points.
Michael Gardener, who has been dubbed the Allen Iverson of the bj-league by Saitama Broncos guard Steve Horne, scored a game-best 22 points and dished out 10 assists.
The Phoenix won their 10th straight contest and improved to 18-10, the same record as Tokyo, which entered the series with a two-game lead atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Stanley Ocitti and Marcus Morrison added 14 points apiece for the hosts, while Baek Sung Hyun poured in 10.
Apache rookie guard Kosaku Yada, a former Harvard University player, scored a season-high 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting. He eclipsed his previous top scoring game (eight points) set in the series opener, and also played a season-high 25 minutes.
Cohey Aoki finished with 12 points, Masashi Joho had 10 and Julius Ashby pulled down 17 rebounds for Tokyo, which plays host to the Niigata Albirex BB on Wednesday and Thursday at Yoyogi Gymnasium.
Elsewhere in the bj-league, the Osaka Evessa earned a series split against the Ryukyu Golden Kings, picking up an 81-63 victory.
Nile Murry’s 27-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist effort paved the way for the Evessa, who are 18-10. Eric Walton (23 points, 16 rebounds), Lynn Washington (14 points, 12 boards) and Ryuichi Horikawa (10 points) also made significant statistical contributions for Osaka.
For Ryukyu (22-6), Naoto Takushi, Anthony McHenry and Jeff Newton all scored 15 points apiece.
The Evessa wrested control of the game in the third stanza, outscoring the Golden Kings 26-14.
Matt Garrison’s 20 points led a well-balanced Takamatsu Five Arrows offensive attack in an 82-79 road win over the Shiga Lakestars.
Rasheed Sparks and Satoshi Takeda each chipped in with 14 points, Gordon James had 12 points and 16 boards and Yu Okada added 11. Sparks and Kazuyuki Nakagawa both had six assists as the Five Arrows completed a series sweep and improved to 19-9.
The Sendai 89ers, meanwhile, earned their second straight win since Rodney Webb joined the squad, edging his former club, the Toyama Grouses, 80-78 in Tohoku.
Center Chris Holm had a monster game inside — 25 points and 30 rebounds, the latter of which tied Newton’s single-game league record. The league’s top rebounder hauled in 16 offensive boards.
Webb, who had 25 points, 11 rebounds, and Bobby St. Preux, who added 16 and 11, also had stellar outings on offense. Guards Hikaru Kusaka and Kenichi Takahashi had six and five assists, respectively, as the 89ers improved to 14-14.
Michael Parker scored 26 points and Takanori Goya contributed 16 in the Rizing Fukuoka’s 73-71 home win over the Oita HeatDevils.
The Rizing, 12-16 after a series sweep, moved into fourth place in the Western Conference standings.