It’s not supposed to be this easy.
The defending bj-league champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix clinched a playoff spot in their 36th game of the season.
Now, they have 16 more regular-season games to play and more than two months before beginning formal preparations for the playoffs after a 104-64 annihilation of the visiting Miyazaki Shining Suns on Sunday in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture.
The mighty Phoenix (32-4) have beaten every team except the Ryukyu Golden Kings at least once this season. They haven’t faced each other yet.
None of the other 15 clubs in the league have more than 22 wins.
Hamamatsu, in its third season since defecting from the JBL, trounced the Shining Suns by a combined 67 points in the two-game series.
Fourteen Phoenix players suited up for Sunday’s game, while only seven Miyazaki players had court time.
Kazutoshi Ota paced Hamamatsu with 18 points and a season-best 10 assists. Shingo Okada and Jeffrey Parmer had 16 points apiece and Dzaflo Larkai added 14 on 7-for-8 shooting.
Brandon Cole led the Shining Suns (12-24), who were 1-for-19 on 3-point shots, with 21 points.
Lakestars 74, Grouses 72
In Toyama, Takamichi Fujiwara sank a pair of free throws with 11 seconds remaining to shatter a 72-72 tie and Shiga snapped its six-game losing streak and win its first game under Hirokazu Nema.
Gary Hamilton had 23 points and 20 rebounds for the Lakestars (20-16), Josh Peppers also scored 23 points, Lamar Rice had 14 and Fujiwara finished with 12.
Jerrell Smith led the Grouses (11-23) with 17 points.
Golden Kings 92, Apache 85
In Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, Naoto Kosuge and Carlos Dixon scored 22 points apiece as the hosts salvaged a series split.
Tokyo point guard Byron Eaton, the catalyst during the team’s five-game win streak that ended Sunday, suffered a knee injury in the series opener and did not play in the rematch.
Anthony McHenry contributed 17 points and seven boards for Ryukyu (22-14), big man Jeff Newton had 14 points, 13 rebounds and two steals and Tsubasa Yonamine dished out 11 assists. Kosuge was 6-for-9 on 3-point shots.
Former NBA center Robert Swift, who has relatives in Okinawa and made his first trip to the island for the weekend series, bounced back from a nine-point game to lead the Apache (19-11) with 24 points and 16 rebounds.
Magic 62, HeatDevils 54
In Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Reggie Golson notched a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) and inside anchor Jeral Davis provided 13 points, eight boards and seven blocked shots for Shimane as the expansion club completed a series sweep.
Oita (15-21) was held to 12 second-quarter points and 10 in the third. Cyrus Tate led the hosts with 25 points and shot 9-for-18 from 2-point range, while the rest of the team was 6-for-29.
Forrest Ray Fisher III had nine points and eight boards and Takumi Ishizaki dished out six assists for Shimane (17-19).
Albirex 84, Broncos 81
In Toyano, Niigata Prefecture, the hosts survived a 38-point outburst by Saitama guard Kenny Satterfield en route to a second win in as many days.
Issa Konare led the Albirex (18-16) with 17 points, Nick DeWitz scored 13 and three teammates had 12 apiece.
George Leach scored 16 points for Saitama (14-22).
89ers 80, Hannaryz 73
In Sendai, Mike Bell scored a team-best 26 points along with 12 rebounds and Mac Hopson added 17 points and seven assists as the 89ers (22-12) rebounded from a Saturday defeat.
For Kyoto (18-18), Wendell White scored 21 points and ageless floor leader Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf had 19 points and five assists.
Rizing 105, Five Arrows 77
In Fukuoka, the hosts overwhelmed the lowly visitors, taking a 34-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Led by Michael Parker (25 points), Nile Murry and Jun Nakanishi (20 apiece), the Rizing improved to 21-15.
Hiroyuki Kikuchi led Takamatsu (8-28) with 17 points.
Happinets 72, Evessa 66
In Amagasaki, Osaka Prefecture, Sek Henry’s inspired play — 23-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist effort — helped guide Akita (11-25) to a 30-7 lead after one quarter and the expansion club held on for a narrow victory to end its six-game losing streak.
Will Graves added 17 points and 12 rebounds and Kazuhiro Shoji and Paul Butorac each had seven points for the Northern Happinets.