The Rizing Fukuoka are playing their best basketball of the season as they gear up for the playoffs next month.
On Saturday, the Rizing recorded their seventh consecutive victory since the bj-league resumed play on March 19, defeating the visiting Shiga Lakestars 109-88.
All-Star forward Michael Parker paced Fukuoka with 33 points (six dunks), as well as nine rebounds, six assists and four steals for good measure. Teammate Nile Murry had 23 points and five assists and sharpshooter Akitomo Takeno had 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting — he also made all four of his free throws — and four assists, while Jun Nakanishi had a six-assist evening as the Rizing’s crisp passes and quick ball movement led to good looks and easy baskets, as evidenced by their 34-for-65 shooting from inside the 3-point arc and 9-for-18 on 3s — against the Lakestars’ inadequate defense.
In the paint, Fukuoka’s Abdullahi Kuso had a strong game (15 points and 14 rebounds).
Parker, the league’s leading scorer at 27.2 points per game, downplayed his outstanding offensive outing, pointing out the team’s overall effort produced the victory.
“It’s just pretty much average for me,” Parker said during the post-game hero interview on TV. “But it does feel good to win at home.”
More important, he said, is the team’s unity and steady improvement under second-year head coach Tadaharu Ogawa.
“It’s the best time of the season to come together,” said Parker. “We are really coming together right now.”
The Rizing (28-17) led by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, and the Lakestars never mounted a serious comeback in the final stanza.
For Shiga (26-19), Lamar Rice had a team-best 17 points and nine rebounds, Masashi Joho scored 15 and Ray Schafer had 13, while Gary Hamilton (12 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists) and Mikey Marshall (10 points, 11 rebounds and five assists) also made solid contributions.
Kings 100, Five Arrows 71
In Takamatsu, Ryukyu’s high-octane offense reached triple digits for the fifth straight game, and coach Dai Oketani’s club improved to a Western Conference-best 30-15 by trouncing the Five Arrows.
Carlos Dixon (20 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and David Palmer (18 points; 4-for-5 on 3-pointers) led the Golden Kings’ balanced scoring attack. Naoto Kosuge added 14 points, Jeff Newton had 12 and Shigeyuki Kinjo finished with 11.
Terrance Farley and Satoshi Takada led Takamatsu (10-33) with 13 points apiece.
Magic 90, Happinets 56
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, the Susanoo Magic outscored Akita 49-20 in the second half en route to a thorough thrashing of the out-of-towners.
Shimane’s Reggie Golson and Jeral Davis each scored 18 points and floor leader Takumi Ishizaki had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Golson also grabbed 15 rebounds, while Davis had 12 boards and five blocked shots for Shimane (21-24), which is closing in on a playoff berth in its inaugural season under bench boss Zeljko Pavlicevic.
For the Northern Happinets (15-30), Will Graves, coming off a 41-point game against Niigata on April 3, had 28 points on 9-for-27 shooting and 12 rebounds, Sek Henry scored 14 and Dokun Akingbade had 11 along with nine rebounds; the rest of the team scored three points. The Happinets’ six Japanese players were all held scoreless.
Akita was 4-for-24 from 3-point range and 16-for-43 on 2-point shots.
Hannaryz 83, HeatDevils 63
In Kyoto, Reggie Warren’s 19-point, 19-rebound effort and Kibwe Trim’s 18 points and 13 boards sparked the Hannaryz to a runaway win over Oita.
The HeatDevils (16-29) suffered their eighth straight loss.
Kyoto, meanwhile, improved to 24-19 as Sendai 89ers veteran Hikaru Kusaka, on loan from the Tohoku-based club, made a big impact (seven assists and five assists) off the bench.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf added 12 points for the Hannaryz.
Matt Lottich paced the HeatDevils with 22 points and nine boards and Kimitake Sato scored 13.
Evessa 85, Shining Suns 66
In Miyazaki, Osaka bounced back from last weekend’s series sweep against the Ryukyu Golden Kings by routing the hosts.
Kenny Satterfield and Billy Knight each scored 16 points and Lynn Washington added 14 for the Evessa (28-17).
Hirohisa Takada scored 11, Wayne Marshall chipped in with 10 for Osaka. Satterfield, who joined the Kansai club after the Saitama Broncos season ended early, dished out a team-high 12 assists and Washington grabbed nine rebounds and rejected two shots in 29 busy minutes on the court.
Taishiro Shimizu paced the Shining Suns (13-31) with 18 points and Brandon Cole had 15 points and nine rebounds. Temporary contract player Daisuke Takaoka, sporting No. 89 as a tribute to his Sendai 89ers club, added 15 points, five boards and two assists, and the veteran forward was 3-for-3 from 3-point range.
News and notes: The reigning champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, Toyama Grouses and Niigata Albirex all had the weekend off. . . .
At halftime of the Rizing-Lakestars game it was announced that this year’s Final Four will be held, as originally scheduled, at Ariake Colosseum on May 21-22. There has been speculation that the league, facing pressure from foreign players, would move the two-day tournament to Kansai.