Basketball / BJ-League | BJ-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Defense paying dividends in West

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Tenacity and rock-solid fundamentals fuel top defenses.

What else makes them click?

An intense desire to limit foes’ scoring chances and high-percentage shots and keeping their point totals down, too.

With about one-third of the season in the books, several teams have emerged as the league’s elite defensive squads, using points allowed as the key measuring stick.

The four stingiest defenses are Western Conference teams: Kyoto Hannaryz (66.6 points per game allowed), Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (66.9), Shimane Susanoo Magic (69.7) and Osaka Evessa (70.7). Rounding out the top seven are a trio of Eastern Conference clubs: the Toyama Grouses (71.0), Niigata Albirex BB (71.6) and Iwate Big Bulls (71.8).

These seven teams all have winning records.

Of course, teams can pile up wins by putting points on the board in a hurry.

Exhibit A: The East-leading Sendai 89ers (135) are seventh among 12 conference teams in points allowed (78.1). But they are No. 1 in points scored (86.2).

Looking at all 24 teams’ steals and blocked shots instrumental in disrupting and limiting opponents’ scoring chances, Niigata is No. 1 with a combined 231 (186 blocks and 45 steals).

The runnerup in the steals department?

Iwate (173).

The Takamatsu Five Arrows (511) have made the fewest steals (96). Every other team has triple-digit totals.

Yokohama (108) is first in blocks (79). The rest of the league ranges from the Aomori Wat’s total of 25 to the Shinshu Brave Warriors’ 64.

League accolades: Hamamatsu macho forward Reggie Warren, a University of West Florida alum, was named the November MVP, the league announced on Wednesday.

Nov. 1 games were accounted for in the October MVP award.

In eight November games, Warren, 34, averaged 17.4 points, 13.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists.

He is the league’s No. 2 rebounder (13.5 per game). He is one of the best all-around frontcourt players in league history.

The Western Conference-leading Phoenix (153) have won 11 straight games. The reigning champions have a bye this weekend, then face the host and 89ers in a showdown of league powers on Dec. 12-13.

In related news, Tatsuhiko Toshino earned the Lawson/Ponta Weekly MVP accolade. The Oita Ehime HeatDevils forward had a career-best 41-point outburst on Saturday, knocking down 10 of 17 3s against the Bambitious Nara. He also had seven rebounds and six assists. He supplied 16 points and eight assists on Sunday as the HeatDevils completed a series sweep.

Toshino, 27, is averaging 15.6 points per game. His previous season high was a 24-point effort on Oct. 25.

Like the Sixers: Dating back to last season, the Tokyo Cinq Reves have lost 53 of their past 55 games, an epic stretch of awful basketball that reminds one of the Philadelphia 76ers’ current woes.

On Nov. 23, 2014, the Cinq Reves started an 18-game losing streak, then they won a game.

What happened next?

An 18-game slide to end the season. (They went 5-47 overall.)

This season, Tokyo is 1-17 through Sunday.

The Cinq Reves’ lone win?

A 91-62 thrashing of the Saitama Broncos (1-15) on Oct. 25.

Upcoming games: The Hiroshima-Sendai series was set to get underway on Thursday night in Hiroshima, while Tokyo is scheduled to play host to Shiga, starting on Friday.

This weekend, the league shifts to non-conference foes for the first time. The rest of the weekend action tips off on Saturday. It features Fukushima vs. Kyoto, Niigata vs. Kanazawa, Toyama vs. Fukuoka, Shinshu vs. Osaka, Gunma vs. Nara, Yokohama vs. Oita, Shimane vs. Saitama, Takamatsu vs. Aomori and Ryukyu vs. Akita. The final matchup features the teams that squared off in May 2014 for the title, which the Golden Kings won.