Between them, Tokyo Apache coach Bob Hill and Shimane Susanoo Magic bench boss Zeljko Pavlicevic have decades of experience leading basketball teams at the highest levels, in the NBA for Hill and in the Euroleague for the Croatian veteran.
This detail was a minor, yet interesting subplot to a well-played game on Saturday.
Pavlicevic’s squad won the first meeting between the bj-league teams, an entertaining 94-85 decision that was decided in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter at Yoyogi National Gymnasium.
Forward Reggie Golson scored a game-best 27 points for Shimane (9-14). He made 9 of 11 free throws and 9 of 17 shots from the field. Lead guard Takumi Ishizaki added 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting, five steals and three assists in 40 minutes. Forward Jeral Davis had a 15-point game on 7-for-8 shooting as the expansion Susanoo Magic improved to 3-10 on the road.
Byron Eaton paced the Apache with 19 points, followed by Cohey Aoki’s 16 points, Jeremy Tyler’s 14 and Robert Swift’s 11. The Apache dropped to 7-8, but after the game, Hill focused on the positives.
“I was actually encouraged with our performance today,” Hill told reporters. “I know it sounds crazy, but I’m encouraged.”
Hill said the team needs to take important steps to become a championship contender and getting Tyler to emerge as a dominant force and a player capable of playing at both power forward and center on a consistent basis is a key. Tyler had a double-double in only 18-plus minutes, which was a positive sign, he said.
Tyler had his only other double-double to date on Nov. 7, a 27-point-, 11-rebound performance against Saitama.
“I believe he can play in the NBA someday,” Pavlicevic said of the 19-year-old Tyler.
Leading 84-77 in the fourth quarter, Shimane’s defense made a timely stop. Terry Evans rejected Aoki’s layup attempt with 2:49 to play.
Ishizaki hit two free throws to make it 86-77 with 2:38 left. Tatsuhiro Yokoo gave Shimane its biggest lead, 88-77, on an aggressive move to the basket and Pavlicevic pumped his fist and let out a smile after the ball fell through the net.
Golson sealed the win, draining two free throws with 53 seconds left and putting Shimane ahead 93-82.
In short, the series opener was decided by shooting, an area in which the visitors shot higher percentages from all areas. Especially from 2-point range, the Magic (28-for-43) played at an efficient level, using the two-man game on a number of occasions with Ishizaki and Evans and Golson for post-up moves and screen-and-roll plays.
“Ishizaki played an outstanding game,” Hill said. “He was very good.”
Hill said Ishizaki probably had more than the three assists he was credited for, noting a number of quality passes he made.
In defeat, Hill was able to dish out a little good-natured humor.
“He played the whole game. That should be illegal,” Hill said of Ishizaki.
Pavlicevic, the former Japan national coach, spoke in glowing terms about the inside hustle of Evans and Golson. He said they “used the space inside, and that’s my type of basketball.”
He added: “I like to use the space and the quality of the players for position (for good shots).”
Despite being outrebounded 54-29, the Magic made enough big plays in other facets of the game, including a relatively low 11 turnovers.
The third quarter moved along at a rapid pace. Shimane had built a five-point margin, but it was cut to one on Aoki’s jumper at the 5:17 mark.
The visitors held a 64-62 advantage entering the final stanza, and at the point Jeremy Tyler was closing in on a double-double (10 points, eight boards).
Before a rowdy crowd of 1,779, Tokyo took its first lead of the game, 12-10, on Byron Eaton’s driving layup with 4:39 left in the first quarter. By that point, Swift had scored five points, matching his output from Friday’s loss.
Davis, a product of little-known Talladega (Ala.) College, scored 11 of Shimane’s first 22 points, helping the team take a six-point lead late in the first quarter.
Showing glimpses of the team’s top talents, Ishizaki was the trigger man on fast-break opportunity, making the pass that led to an assist on a Golson basket that gave the Magic a 26-22 lead. The lead quickly rose to six.
But the Apache answered, and Aoki canned a pullup jumper to tie it at 30 at the 5:14 mark.
After five points from Swift in a 27-second span late in the second quarter, ex-Apache Shoji Nakanishi flushed a 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining before the break.
Tokyo led 45-44 at the break.
Lakestars 84, Albirex 76
In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, hometown favorite Yu Okada scored 19 points and Gary Hamilton had an 18-point, 18-rebound performance for the hosts in a win over Niigata.
The Lakestars improved to 15-8, including 8-3 at home.
Julius Ashby paced the Albirex (10-11) with 18 points and Zach Andrews and Willie Veasley each scored 15.
89ers 112, Rizing 78
In Sendai, Mac Hopson scored 30 points and handed out 10 assists, Chris Holm added 22 points and 14 rebounds and Mike Bell chipped in with 20 points and 13 assists for the hosts.
The 89ers (13-8) had two nine-point scorers and two others with eight-point games in the rout.
Michael Parker paced Fukuoka (15-10) with 25 points and Nile Murry scored 24.
Shining Suns 99, Grouses 77
In Kurobe, Toyama Prefecture, Jackie Manuel had a game-high 27 points and Elijah Palmer scored 21 to lead Miyazaki to a rout on the road.
Palmer had 10 rebounds, as did Brandon Cole, who poured in 17 points for the Shining Suns (7-16).
For Toyama (6-15), Brian Harper finished with 16 points and 12 boards and John Davis scored 15.
Broncos 84, Five Arrows 75
In Takamatsu, Kenny Satterfield had 22 points, 12 rebounds and five assists and Kazuya Hatano delivered 16 points and 10 boards for Saitama (8-15).
Terrance Farley and Hiroyuki Kikuchi led Takamatsu (6-15) with 16 points apiece.