The free-falling Oita HeatDevils and Rizing Fukuoka have been heading in opposite directions.
The Rizing’s 69-64 victory Friday over the HeatDevils in Hita, Oita Prefecture, gave them six victories in their past 10 games. And now the Rizing (17-20) occupy the fifth of six Western Conference playoff spots.
The HeatDevils (15-22), who were tied for second in the bj-league’s 10-team West in December, have tumbled to seventh place, losing four straight and 15 of their last 19 contests since a promising 11-7 start under third-year coach Yukinori Suzuki.
Reggie Warren paced Fukuoka with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Seth Tarver scored 12 points. Jun Nakanishi and Julius Ashby both had 11 points. Cohey Aoki added seven points and three steals.
The Rizing had 12 steals in total, including Nakanishi’s three.
Despite being out-rebounded 52-41 and shooting 4-for-25 from 3-point range, Fukuoka prevailed in the series opener.
Oita turned the ball over 21 times, playing without injured floor leader Verdell Jones III (16.6 points and 4.5 assists per game).
Devonne Giles led the HeatDevils with 26 points and 20 rebounds and Shuichi Takada and Taishiro Shimizu each had 10 points.
Oita’s biggest problem to date is a horrendous home record (5-12).