TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Solid shooting and effective passing made a big difference for the Saitama Broncos in their final game of 2010.
Led by starting forward Gordon Klaiber’s game-high 22 points and backup center Bruce Brown’s 20, the Broncos rolled to an 88-70 victory over the Tokyo Apache on Sunday at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium.
The Broncos, who return to the court on Jan. 8 against the host Takamatsu Five Arrows, have won a season-best three straight games. They improved to 7-15, moved out of last place in the bj-league’s Eastern Conference and dished out 27 assists on 32 field goals.
“I’m glad we could win two at home. I hope we can win some more,” said Brown, who was 9-for-11 from the field, including a trio of dunks, in 18-plus high-energy minutes.
Saitama outscored Tokyo 24-8 in the second quarter and took a 44-26 advantage into halftime. The Broncos led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter.
Broncos guard Yuki Kitamuki scored 15 points, including three 3s, while Kenny Satterfield had 14 points and nine assists, many into the alert hands of Klaiber and Brown and Kazuya Hatano scored 10.
Tokyo put 26 points on the board in the fourth quarter as its sluggish offense found some rhythm, but it was too little too late.
Saitama had effectively won the game in the second and third quarters, when it outscored Tokyo 45-26.
The Apache, who only played eight total games in November and December, trailed by 21 points entering the fourth.
Power forward Kendall Dartez paced Tokyo with 15 points. Byron Eaton scored 13 and teen forward Jeremy Tyler had 12.
Apache coach Bob Hill said Saitama made the right decision to employ its zone defense for the majority of Sunday’s game.
“They had a hard time guarding the pick-and-roll so they went zone, and it was a good move because we could not make a shot,” Hill said. “We couldn’t make a jump shot. We couldn’t make a free throw. It was frustrating.”
The Apache were 9-for-17 at the line and 7-for-31 on 3-point shots after shooting 6-for-24 from beyond the arc in Saturday’s 85-74 loss.
“The ball didn’t go in the basket, it didn’t go in last night,” Hill said, citing a key factor in his team’s series-opening defeat which came after five straight wins. “And it didn’t go in today.”
That said, Hill expressed confidence in his team to rebound from its shooting slump after the New Year’s break.
“There’s an unspoken law on most good teams that they understand who the shooters are,” he said. “We’ve talked about that as a team, and I don’t think that’s a problem.”
The Apache (6-6) return to action on Jan. 6 in their long-awaited home opener at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.
For the Broncos, meanwhile, the two-game sweep provided a much-needed boost of confidence, said Hatano.
“It was a big win today,” he said, adding his team was fired up to face a Tokyo squad led by an ex-NBA coach. “It was a great feeling today, big motivation (for future games).”
Broncos coach Bob Nash offered a more detailed analysis of the victory.
“I thought today’s game was one where we played completely at both ends of the floor, on the offensive end and the defensive end,” he said.
He added: “Anytime you get a team that can get 27 assists, that’s good team basketball, and I thought our guys played good team basketball all day long.
“I’m not worried about who shot the ball, but I’m worried about making the extra pass to the open guy and the open guy is making the shot. That’s what happened today.”
On several occasions, Saitama’s passers and shooters appeared a split-second quicker than Tokyo’s defenders, which opened up free space for good looks.
“It’s not only me that was knocking down shots. My teammates were hitting shots, so that’s opening it up for me,” said Klaiber, who flushed 4 of 5 3-point shots. “The difference is, if I hit a couple, I’m going to keep on shooting it, and that’s what happened today.”
Before boarding the team bus to return to Tokyo, Eaton said his team’s effort was solid, but Saitama played a smarter, more aggressive game.
He added: “I think everyone on our team is getting a lot more comfortable with one another, and the shots will come.”
After being swept by Saitama, Dartez focused on his team’s learning experiences from the weekend.
“Well, the players know that at any time we can play bad, we can play good,” said Dartez. “As long as the team sticks together and continues to do what we have to do, I think we can be a great team. But the losses helped us to realize that on any given night we can lose a game.”
Rizing 95, Hannaryz 86
In Muko, Kyoto Prefecture, Michael Parker scored 41 points and Nile Murry poured in 23 and handed out 10 assists in Fukuoka’s win over the hosts.
Akitomo Takeno added 15 points for the Rizing (13-9).
Wendell White paced Kyoto (11-11) with a season-best 45 points on 19-for-24 shooting from the field and he grabbed 16 rebounds. Kibe Trim scored 14 and Sunao Murakami had 10.
Five Arrows 81, Grouses 70
In Toyama, Jeffrey Price’s 19 points led Takamatsu to a series-closing victory over the Grouses.
The Five Arrows (6-14), who lost the opener, also got 14 points and nine boards from Terrance Farley and 11 points apiece from Hiroyuki Kikuchi and Makoto Kita.
For Toyama (6-14), John Davis scored 21 points and Jerrell Smith had 16 points and 12 boards. Evessa 68, Susanoo Magic 61
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Lynn Washington inspired Osaka at both ends of the floor, finishing with 19 points and 15 rebounds as the visitors earned a sweep.
Billy Knight and Hirohisa Takeda each scored 14 for the Evessa (17-5).
Takumi Ishizaki, who scored 14, was the only double-digit scorer for Shimane (8-14).
H. Devils 78, G. Kings 66
In Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Damian Johnson scored 18 points and Taj Finger had a 17-point, 13-rebound effort as the hosts closed out the year with a sweep over Ryukyu.
Hiroki Sato and Matt Lottich each scored 12 for the HeatDevils (9-11).
David Palmer paced the Golden Kings (13-9) with 22 points and Shigeyuki Kinjo scored 11. Jeff Newton had 19 rebounds, six rebounds and four blocks in a gritty performance.
Happinets 88, Albirex 81
In Akita, Sek Henry erupted for 31 points and Paul Butorac notched a double-double (23 points, 15 boards) as the triumphant hosts bounced from a loss in the opener.
Antonio Burks scored 10 and Kazuhiro Shoji had eight points and six assists for the Northern Happinets (8-14).
Julius Ashby led Niigata (10-10) with 23 points and 12 boards, while Zach Andrews and Willie Veasley had 15 points apiece.
Phoenix 90, Lakestars 72
In Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, Dzaflo Larkai had 18 points and Jeffrey Parmer poured in 17 as Hamamatsu Higashimikawa improved to 20-2.
Five Phoenix players scored in double figures.
Mikey Marshall led Shiga (14-8) with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
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