With nearly one-third of the season now spent under Bill Cartwright, the Osaka Evessa have made great strides since a miserable 5-19 start under two former bench bosses, Zoran Kreckovic and Takao Furuya.
Cartwright has instilled discipline, a commitment to fundamentals and a hunger for ferocious defense. His message is working.
Osaka is now 10-6 with the former Chicago Bulls head coach at the helm, completing a series sweep over the visiting Shinshu Brave Warriors with a crowd-pleasing 78-64 triumph on Sunday.
The Evessa closed out the game by outscoring the Brave Warriors 28-16 in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Cartwright told reporters, “We knew this would be hard. But we won because we played how we are supposed to play.”
He added: “In the fourth quarter, everyone could step up. Every game will be a challenge for us. We have to play better on offense to score more.”
The Evessa have won five straight games and six of their last seven.
Mike Bell, a Florida Atlantic University product, paced Osaka (15-25) with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two steals. Ex-Minnesota Timberwolves draft pick Rick Rickert had 18 points, 11 boards, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot. Dwayne Lathan scored 12 points and Shun Watanuki and Nathan Walkup each had nine. The Evessa shot 53.8 percent (28-for-52) from inside the arc.
Osaka out-rebounded Shinshu 46-39.
The Brave Warriors trailed 38-27 at halftime.
Jermaine Green and Edward Morris were Shinshu’s top scorers with 15 points apiece. Eric Walton had 13 points and Yosuke Saito had seven. Takato Saito dished out six assists and Edward Morris contributed 13 rebounds and three steals for the Warriors (16-26), a second-year franchise.
Grouses 105, Cinq Reves 78
In Nanto, Toyama, Masashi Joho bounced back from a poor shooting game in the series opener to help spark the hosts as they earned a series split against Tokyo.
Joho went 5-for-9 from 3-point range and 10-for-16 overall from the field a day after shooting 3-for-16 in a loss. He had 28 points and three steals as Toyama improved to 26-14, its best start in the franchise’s seven seasons. Angel Garcia scored a team-high 29 points and Ira Brown had 13. Brown also chipped in with nine rebounds and eight assists. Takeshi Mito scored 12 points, registered four helpers and collected four steals.
All told, the Grouses buried 13 of 28 3s, with five players shooting 42.9 percent or better from long range.
Leading 46-43 at the half, Toyama turned the game into a rout in the third quarter. The Grouses had 36 third-quarter points to Tokyo’s 18.
For Tokyo (15-25), Ricky Woods was the leading scorer with 34 points on 14-for-27 shooting and raked in nine rebounds. Jonathan Jones scored 17 points and hauled in 11 boards and Jared Carter added 10 points, six rebounds and five blocks off the bench. Seven-time All-Star Cohey Aoki, who had 22 points in the opener, was held to one point on 0-for-6 shooting.
The expansion Cinq Reves missed 16 of 20 3-pointers.
HeatDevils 96, 89ers 87
In Bungo-ono, Oita Prefecture, Thomas Granado was 11-for-13 from the field en route to a 27-point, 14-rebound performance and Taishiro Shimizu and Verdell Jones III both scored 21 points.
The HeatDevils (14-28) sank 29 of 33 foul shots. They handed out 20 assists and scored 34 fourth-quarter points to earn the series split against Sendai.
T.J. Cummings scored 18 points for the 89ers (16-24), Maurice Hargrow had 16, Sam Coleman 14 and Takuya Komoda 12.
The 89ers have gone 3-3 since firing coach Bob Pierce last month and replacing him with general manager Takeo Mabashi.
Shining Suns 94, Broncos 90 (OT)
In Gyoda, Saitama Prefecture, despite 28 turnovers and a dreadful shooting afternoon, Miyazaki emerged victorious in a spirited duel between two of the league’s worst teams.
Abdullahi Kuso finished with one of the rarest of triple-doubles — 32 points, 21 rebounds and 11 turnovers — for the Shining Suns (8-34) and Yuto Otsuka scored 27 points, canning 7 of 12 3s.
Miyazaki shot 28-for-77 from the field and committed 28 turnovers. The Suns (8-34) also had a bad day at the foul line (26-for-42). But Miyazaki stayed energetic and relentless on the boards, hauling in 82 (34 offensive boards) to Saitama’s 55.
Saitama also struggled to make shots, going 29-for-71 from the field, including 6-for-26 on 3s. The Broncos (11-29) were 14-for-24 at the line.
John “Helicopter” Humphrey had a game-high 35 points on 12-for-35 shooting for Saitama, with a 7-for-10 effort at the charity stripe. He also made seven steals.
Dameion Baker scored 16 points and Yuki Kitamuki, who was 5-for-24 from the field, had 11. Yuki Nobuhira added 10 points and four steals.
All in all, an odd game that gave Miyazaki a series split.
Susanoo Magic 82, Crane Thunders 60
In Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture, Michael Parker tattooed his imprint on the game from start to finish and wound up with 26 points, 10 rebounds, five steals, three assist and three blocks in a bounce-back win for Shimane.
B.J. Puckett scored 20 points and grabbed 10 boards and Jeral Davis had 15 points and five blocks for the Magic (29-13). Parker, Puckett and Davis combined to shoot 25-for-36 on 2-pointers, including Davis’ three dunks and Parker’s two.
Making his 17th start of the season (in 40 games), Shohei Nakama, younger brother of longtime bj-league guard Jumpei, had his best game in a Shimane uniform, with eight points, seven rebounds and a career-best nine assists in 36 impressive minutes on the court.
Dominique Keller led Gunma (10-32) with 16 points and Randy Orr and Jermaine Dixon each had 11.
The Crane Thunder shot 24-for-73 from the field.
“We played well the first half after getting down by 10, then taking the lead (31-29) at the half,” Gunma coach Ryan Blackwell said. “Shimane was the aggressor in the second half and played more like the second-place team in the West. We broke down defensively and blew a lot of assignments. We didn’t shoot the ball well from the field either and a lot of that was (216-cm big man) Jeral’s presence in the paint.”
Golden Kings 89, Jets 59
In Chiba, Jeff Newton had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Anthony McHenry scored 18 and Narito Namizato nearly notched a triple-double as the reigning champions blasted the hosts to complete a weekend sweep.
Namizato finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals as Ryukyu ran its record to 31-9 overall, 14-6 on the road. Terrance Woodbury scored 15 points for the Kings.
Coach Koto Toyama’s club led 37-30 at halftime, then scored 33 third-quarter points to take a 70-41 advantage over Chiba into the final period.
D’Andre Bell was Chiba’s high scorer with 12 points and Marquise Gray had 11. Joe Werner added eight points and 11 rebounds for the Jets (20-20).
Chiba has lost seven of its past 10 games, but still occupies sixth place, the final playoff position, in the Eastern Conference.
Hannaryz 92, Northern Happinets 84
In Kyoto, sharpshooter David Palmer scored a game-high 24 points and former NBA big man Marcus Cousin contributed 16 points and 16 boards as the Hannaryz outlasted scrappy Akita in overtime in a hard-fought contest between evenly matched teams.
The Happinets (21-19) won the series opener by a point.
Yu Okada (12 points), Jermaine Boyette (11) and Gyno Pomare (10) also scored in double figures for Kyoto (21-19). Boyette and Okada both had five assists and Kyosuke Setoyama dished out six.
Dion Harris led Akita with 23 points and Shigehiro Taguchi knocked down five 3s and scored 19 points. Yuki Togashi added 17 points and seven assists, and Anthony Kent scored 16.
The run-and-gun Happinets were 14-for-30 on 3s and 18-for-37 from inside the arc in an entertaining game televised nationally on BS Fuji.
Rizing 80, Five Arrows 74
In Takamatsu, Josh Peppers scored 19 points and Akitomo Takeno drained all eight of his free throws in a 17-point outing as Fukuoka defeated the hosts for the second time in as many days.
Julius Ashby added 12 points and 10 rebounds and Jun Nakanishi scored 10. Reggie Warren contributed eight points, 12 boards and three blocks for the Rizing (28-14).
Paul Williams had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Takamatsu (16-26) and Brandon Penn scored 15, while Daisuke Tamura had 12.
Saturday rewind: Six games were decided by nine points or less on Saturday. Only Sendai’s 11-point win over Oita and Osaka’s 20-point triumph over Shinshu weren’t decided by single-digit margins.
In Tokyo’s 90-83 triumph, Ricky Woods scored 30 points, Cohey Aoki had 22 and Jonathan Jones poured in 15 for the victors, and Hirohisa Takada handed out eight assists. Ira Brown and Angel Garcia had 27 and 24 points, respectively, for the Grouses.
In Gunma’s 78-72 victory, Dominique Keller had 27 points, Jermaine Dixon scored 15 and Randy Orr added 14, while Lewis Witcher had five assists. Michael Parker led Shimane with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
In Saitama’s 106-100 win, Yuki Kitamuki was 7-for-14 on 3-points shots in a 36-point performance, John Humphrey scored 30 and Yuki Nobuhira had 16, while Takumi Yamashiro added seven assists for the Broncos. Thomas Fairley and Abdullahi Kusho each had 26 points for Miyazaki and Yuto Otsuka scored 20.
In Osaka’s 86-66 victory, Mike Bell had 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks, Rick Rickert added 15 points and 10 boards and Shota Konno and Dwayne Lathan both had 10 points, and Osaka seized control in the third quarter, when it outscored Shinshu 32-11. The Evessa were 33-for-60 from inside the arc. Edward Morris paced the Warriors with 16 points.
In Fukuoka’s 95-86 win, Reggie Warren had 21 points and 15 rebounds, Julius Ashby added 16 and 11 and the Rizing grabbed 18 more rebounds than the hosts. Dexter Lyons led Takamatsu with 23 points and Paul Williams had 17.
In Sendai’s 85-74 triumph, T.J. Cummings had 23 points and 10 boards, Takuya Komoda and Maurice Hargrow both scored 14 and Sam Willard added seven points and 16 rebounds. Taishiro Shimizu and P.J. Alawoya both scored 20 points for Oita.
In Akita’s 78-77 win over Kyoto, Shigehiro Taguchi flushed 6 of 7 3s en route to 24 points and rookie Yuki Togashi had 15 points and eight assists. Gyno Pomare paced Kyoto with 17 points and 14 boards.
(Note: A full recap of the Ryukyu Golden Kings-Chiba Jets game, won 84-82 by Ryukyu, was posted on this website on Sunday.)
Legitimate gripe: “If this league is looking to become a market where basketball players think of coming to Japan professionally, the league commissioner (Toshimitsu Kawachi) has to hold these officials to the a higher learning degree on the knowledge of basketball. The last time I check, players and coaches determined who wins or loses, not the officials. They need to get better.” — a Western Conference player told The Japan Times on Sunday.
Noteworthy: With 11 steals in the weekend series against Gunma, Michael Parker climbed to the top of the league’s steal chart (2.2 per game).