Real fans care about winning. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be classified as real fans.
Real fans recognize the value of Nick Davis’ contributions to the Tokyo Apache over the past two-plus seasons, which is why, with their team in last place and quickly becoming the laughing stock of the bj-league, they expressed their support for Davis (holding up white signs with a black No. 21, the veteran standout’s number), dozens of them doing so during the break in the action between the third and fourth quarters on Wednesday night at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.
Commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi was nowhere in sight for the majority of the game, but his thoughts on the surprising transaction and on the Apache’s announcement last Friday to release Davis, one of the league’s top rebounders, passers and fan favorites, would’ve interested each and every person in attendance.
Instead, the game’s outcome provided a distraction for those seeking answers as Tokyo dropped to 6-15 with a pathetic 76-55 loss to the expansion Kyoto Hannaryz.
The Hannaryz (8-15), meanwhile, won their second straight game, getting another strong all-around performance from several players. Josh Bostic (19 points, 12 rebounds, four steals, three assists), Naoto Takushi (16 points, four assists) and J.R. Inman (13 points, 16 boards) led five players in double figures.
The Apache’s offensive approach — 36 3-point shots (eight makes) and 10-for-30 from 2-point range — proved to be a recipe for disaster. Shoji Nakanishi, who was 2-for-13 from 3-point range, scored a team-high 13 points.
“For us, definitely, it’s a win that we need,” said Hannaryz coach David Benoit. “It’s the first time that we won two games in a row. But we are mindful that their team is a little short, especially after losing Nick Davis. But I still got to give them a lot of credit because they still came in and fought hard through the whole game.”
The Hannaryz controlled the boards and held a 64-43 advantage in rebounds, including 24 offensive boards.
Midway through the third quarter, Tokyo, vying for a few rare highlights in a disastrous season, trailed 49-37 after Takushi’s driving basket. The Apache players stepped back onto the court with 4:35 to play in the third and a desire to cut the deficit in half before the end of the quarter, but they quickly turned it over on a foray into the lane and stumbled to gain any semblance of rhythm on either end of the quarter.
The results often weren’t pretty. The Apache rushed shots and relied (more of the same) on 3-point shots in a frantic attempt to play catch-up.
The Hannaryz, hampered by a rash of injuries this season, led 57-44 after three quarters.
The matchup between the league’s worst teams was a one-sided contest at the outset.
The Hannaryz jumped out to a 6-1 early advantage after Takushi’s rebound and nifty reverse layup/putback looked as natural as buttering a slice of toast in the morning, and the lead quickly increased to 14-1.
But the Apache used a 12-2 spurt, including two Sparks 3-pointers, to trim the deficit to three. Then the Hannaryz returned the favor and closed out the quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 22-13 lead.
Lacking a towering frontline — compounded by the release of the 203-cm Davis — and facing a big deficit quickly, the Apache offense consisted of mostly 3-point shots (2-for-13) in the first quarter. In fact, they only attempted four shots from inside the arc in the opening stanza.
Takushi, a member of the league’s Best Five team the past two seasons, buried consecutive 3-pointers late in the second quarter to give Kyoto a 36-24 lead. Bostic followed with a driving layup but missed the subsequent free throw with 1:50 before the break.
It seemed, as the game went on, that each of Takushi’s baskets was a catalyst for his team.
“This is our first year working together and I recognize his talents,” Benoit said, “but I think more importantly for Takushi he realizes how important it is for his teammates to keep everybody involved. But I’ve actually been telling him when you have the opportunity to shoot to take the shot. “That’s something he wasn’t doing before but he’s doing more right now.”
Tokyo kept itself in striking distance, however, thanks to Hannaryz turnovers and missed shots, as well as hustle and a little bit of luck.
But Kyosuke Setoyama’s buzzer-beating shot made it 40-31 at halftime.
Notes: In the first-ever meeting between the teams, former NBA guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was sidelined due to a calf injury. Before the game, Benoit said he expects the veteran to return to the lineup next week, but he wanted to take precautionary measures by not rushing the 40-year-old back into action. “That’s the toughest part for my job, being patient,” Benoit admitted. . . . Abdul-Rauf participated in the pre-game shooting drills. . . . The sparse crowd appeared to be the smallest one this reporter has seen since first covering the bj-league in the fall of 2006. A crowd of 1,099 was announced, but the number appeared to be greatly inflated. . . . Game 2 of the series begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.