Shimane center Jeral Davis dominated defensively in Game 1 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series, helping the Susanoo Magic rout the visiting Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix 80-67 on Friday afternoon.
Davis, who was named to the 2012-13 Best Five team earlier this week, swatted seven shots and put his stamp on the game by protecting the basket. The 211-cm big man, who has led the bj-league in blocked shots for three straight seasons, hauled in 11 rebounds and scored 12 points on 6-for-11 shooting in a terrific 40-minute performance in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture before a crowd of 2,375.
Shimane took a 14-11 advantage into the second quarter and increased the margin as the game progressed. The No. 3 seed Susanoo Magic led 39-34 at halftime and 57-45 entering the fourth quarter.
Davis, a Talladega State (Alabama) product, averaged 3.5 blocks per game for Shimane, which exited the playoffs in the first round last spring, falling to the Kyoto Hannaryz.
On Friday, the Magic offense clicked. They made 33 of 53 shots (62.3 percent) from inside the arc, with all six players who made field goals shooting better than 50 percent from 2-point range, including Michael Parker (19 points, 8-for-11), Brandon Freeman (19 points, 6-for-10) and Aichi Prefecture native Tatsuhiro Yokoo (14 points, 7-for-9). Koki Yabuuchi had 10 points for Shimane, which is in its third season.
For Croatian bench boss Zeljko Pavlicevic’s club, all nine of its 3-point shots missed were off the mark.
Yabuuchi, who hails from Osaka, dished out a team-high five assists and Freeman and Kazuya “J.” Hatano each had three. Parker collected eight rebounds and made three steals.
“We played a very, very good game,” Pavlicevic told The Japan Times. “Hamamatsu, with (former league MVP Jeffrey) Parmer, is a great team.”
Pavlicevic praised the strong performance of his import players and credited Yabuuchi, Yokoo and Hatano for their strong efforts in the playoff opener. But after his team was eliminated from the playoffs in the opening round in its first two season, Pavlicevic knows the challenge of playing at a high level again in Game 2 won’t be easy, what with Hamamatsu, last season’s championship runnerup squad, eager to return to the Final Four once again.
With Davis challenging shooters, using his long arms and exceptional timing to disrupt the No. 6 seed Phoenix offense throughout the high-intensity, 40-minute contest, Hamamatsu never found its rhythm. Coach Tomoya Higashino’s club shot 25-for-68 from the field, including 17-for-44 from inside the arc.
Kevin Galloway paced the Phoenix with 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and three steals, but also had five turnovers. Elbert Fuqua had 15 points and seven boards. Atsuya Ota finished with nine points and nine rebounds, Parmer added eight points before fouling out. Shinnosuke Oishi scored seven points on 3-for-13 shooting and Shoji Nakanashi hit a pair of 3-pointers for all of his scoring output.
Game 2 is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. on Saturday. If necessary, a mini-tiebreaker game will be held after the second game.
And so there’s little time for Pavlicevic and his players to relish the euphoria of victory.
“Tomorrow’s a new day,” the former Japan national team coach said.
The series winner advances to face the No. 2 seed Rizing Fukuoka next weekend in Kyushu.
The other three first-round playoff series — Shiga vs. Kyoto, Toyama vs. Chiba and Iwate vs. Chiba — begin on Saturday.
League accolades: Shooting guard Masayuki Kabaya of the Yokohama B-Corsairs is the final Lawson/Ponta Weekly MVP of the regular season, it was announced earlier this week.
Kabaya drained a league-record 12 of 20 3s in an electrifying 39-point performance on April 27 against the Saitama Broncos. He had 19 points in the season finale a day later, connecting on 3 of 5 shots from long range.
This season, Kabaya, the Yokohama captain, was the league’s top 3-point shooter (43.4 percent).
In related news, Ryukyu Golden Kings forward Anthony McHenry, who was named the 2012-13 regular-season MVP on Wednesday, also was selected as the April MVP. The Golden Kings went 7-1 in April, winning their last seven games and finishing with a league-record 42-10 record.
McHenry averaged 18.9 pints and 11.5 rebounds per game in April, and also sank 15 of 22 3-point shots.