After clinching home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs on Saturday, Tokyo Apache coach Joe Bryant opted to rest several key players on Sunday.
It turned out that Bryant didn’t need to play center Nick Davis, forwards John Humphrey and Dameion Baker and guards Masashi Joho and Cohey Aoki.
Tokyo raced out to a 21-point lead after one quarter and routed the visiting Saitama Broncos 87-63 in the teams’ regular-season finale at Yoyogi National Gymnasium Annex.
The Apache’s starting lineup of Julius Ashby (16 points, eight rebounds), Tomoya Nakamura (four points, nine rebounds) and Jumpei Nakama (24 points, 6-for-7 on 3-pointers, five assists) in the frontcourt and guards Jun Iwasa (three assists) and Kosaku Yada (15 points, nine rebounds, six assists) played with an urgent, fired-up attitude from the get-to.
“I thought the Tokyo guys really came out and played well, especially the guys who didn’t (usually) get to play for them,” said Saitama coach David Benoit. “They really came and played their tempo. It seemed like we were really flat today.”
Scoring inside and outside with equal ease, Tokyo turned a 15-6 lead in the first quarter into a 34-6 advantage, completing the 19-0 run on a Yada 3-pointer with 6 minutes left in the first half.
Bryant said he expected to play Davis, Humphrey, Baker, Aoki and Joho, but after the first quarter he changed his mind.
“I told John and Joho and them, ‘No, y’all are not playing today,’ ” Bryant said with a chuckle.
The Apache, who held a 47-20 halftime advantage, led by as many as 38 points in the third quarter.
Saitama outscored Tokyo 32-20 in the final quarter to make the game appear less one-sided. Steve Horne had a team-high 18 points for the listless Broncos (19-33), who shot 7-for-20 from the foul line.
“I really, really, really don’t know what to say,” Bryant said. “The way Chomo (Nakamura) played and Jun and Ko (Yada) and Jumpei, I’m really kind of at a loss for words.
“Jumpei, he’s been with me for four years and we always knew that his talent and his skills were special, but we were always concerned with two years ago he had a knee injury. So we really wanted to take our time to getting Jumpei back to playing 20-25 minutes a game.”
Nakama played a season-high 29 minutes on Sunday.
“(He’s) a hell of a player,” Bryant said of Nakama, “and my job this year was really to keep him healthy for the playoffs.”
Tokyo will face the Sendai 89ers in the first round of the bj-league playoffs on May 9-10 at Ariake Colosseum.
The Osaka Evessa wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with a 110-105 road win over the Oita HeatDevils.
Two-time MVP Lynn Washington had a 41-point performance in the season finale, while Evessa teammates Nile Murry, Ryan Blackwell and Jun Nakanishi scored 26, 24 and 11, respectively.
Osaka (35-17), the three-time defending champions, will face the Takamatsu Five Arrows on May 2-3 in the first round of the playoffs. The games will be played at Moriguchi City Gymnasium in Osaka Prefecture.
Jeffrey Price had a team-best 25 points for Oita (8-44), which missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
The Ryukyu Golden Kings closed out the regular season with an 83-66 win over the visiting Shiga Lakestars.
Anthony McHenry paced Ryukyu (41-11) with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Teammate Shigeyuki Kinjo poured in 17 points, Chris Ayer added 15, Naoto Takushi had a 12-point, five-assist afternoon and Jeff Newton, a vital part of Osaka’s three championship teams, contributed nine points and 14 boards.
The Golden Kings, who went 10-34 in their inaugural season of 2007-08, will play host to the Rizing Fukuoka in the opening round of the playoffs on May 5-6 in Okinawa.
Shiga ended its first season with a 19-33 record, finishing three games behind the West’s fourth and final playoff seed, Fukuoka (22-30), in the standings.
Led by Marlyn Bryant’s 31 points and 15 rebounds, the Rizing earned a 73-72 triumph over the host Five Arrows.
Bryant’s basket tied it at 72-72 with 5 seconds remaining and made a free throw two seconds later for the game’s final point.
For Takamatsu (33-19), Babacar Camara finished with 24 points and 11 boards.
Elsewhere, Rodney Webb had 22 points and Bobby St. Preux added 19 in the 89ers’ 90-78 home victory over the Niigata Albirex BB.
Kenichi Takahashi led Sendai with six assists and Hikaru Kusaka handed out five.
Calvin Chitwood was the top scorer for Niigata (24-28) with 20 points.
The Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, who defeated the host Toyama Grouses, 115-74, are the East’s No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
The Phoenix (36-16) will play host to the fourth-seeded Albirex on May 9-10.
Hamamatsu’s Michael Gardener had a game-best 31 points and Marcus Morrison poured in 30.
Toyama ended its woeful season with an 11-41 record.
Noteworthy: Rizing forward Michael Parker is this season’s scoring champion. He averaged 26.8 points per game. Lynn Washington, who was 14-for-20 from the field and 10-for-10 from the line on Sunday, is No. 2 at 25.9 ppg.
Cohey Aoki picked up his third free-throw shooting crown, finishing the season with a 91.4 percent success rate at the line. He was the league’s highest-percentage foul shooter in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, too.
Sendai center Chris Holm averaged 15.6 rebounds a game and claimed his first bj-league title in that department.
The passing title goes to Michael Gardener, who dished out 6.8 assists per game.
Parker, who missed the final three games of the regular season with a knee injury, had a league-best 2.6 steals per game.
Niigata guard Akitomo Takeno is the top 3-point shooter. He knocked down 41.3 percent of his 3-point shots (109-for-264).
Jeff Newton and Sun Ming Ming, the Phoenix’s 236-cm center, both averaged 1.4 dunks per game, which is the best figure in the league.
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