The Alvark Tokyo are firing on all cylinders as the B. League’s inaugural season reaches its midway point.
Long before the pause in the season for the ongoing All-Japan Championship and next weekend’s All-Star Game, the Alvark (22-5) staked their claim as one of the elite clubs in the 18-team circuit.
In fact, only the Central Division-leading Kawasaki Brave Thunders (25-4) have more victories than the Alvark.
After Monday’s 82-76 triumph over the visiting Niigata Albirex BB, Tokyo coach Takumi Ito summed up what has been the foundation of his team’s success: balanced scoring.
“I’m happy about this,” Ito said.
The 34-year-old Ito added that consistent passing and ball distribution have created this balance. The passes that lead to the assist are a point of pride for team, he said, calling the team’s offensive philosophy a simple one: “share (the ball).”
This has been a steady feature of the team’s offense. On New Year’s Day against Niigata, for instance, former NBA guard Diante Garrett was the Alvark’s high scorer with 16 points, and three of his teammates also scored in double figures.
A day later, in Tokyo’s victory in the series finale, six Alvark players had 10 or more points, with former New Mexico State forward Troy Gillenwater leading the way with 18 points.
The East Division-leading Alvark have won eight of their past 10 games. In one of the season’s most memorable matchups to date, they stopped Kawasaki’s 15-game winning streak with a 106-92 road triumph on Christmas Eve. Gillenwater’s 32 points topped the scoring chart for Tokyo, with Daiki Tanaka making five big 3-pointers in a 30-point output.
There’s no secret formula for the Alvark’s success. Simply put, the team, which features a deep, versatile roster with inside muscle, speed and athleticism from the wings and backcourt, puts points on the board in a hurry. They are the second-leading team in scoring (83.7 points per game), trailing only the Brave Thunders (86.2).
As they demonstrated in the series finale against Niigata, the Alvark are a strong inside scoring team and equally adept on the fast break — Tokyo held a 10-0 advantage in that game.
Garrett is the tone-setting scorer, averaging 18.3 points, the fifth-highest output in the league. His 3.6 assists a game puts him at No. 8 on the current chart. Gillenwater is contributing 17.3 points and Tanaka 13.0.
Joji Takeuchi is posting close to a double-double a game (9.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, sixth-most boards in the league). Backup forward Zack Baranski is also averaging 9.1 points, while veteran perimeter marksman Keijuro “K.J.” Matsui chips in with 7.4 points off the bench.
Tanaka is No. 2 in the circuit in steals (1.9), followed by Garrett (1.7, fifth).
Matsui has made 42.6 percent of his 3-point shots, placing him at fifth in the league, and Tanaka is sixth at 40.8.
Veteran small forward Shohei Kikuchi said team management has assembled a quality roster, noting that Matsui, who played college ball at Columbia University, and backup guard Taishi Ito, who competed for the University of Portland, have both made a positive impact with their experiences as NCAA Division I players.
“We have strong overseas players,” Kikuchi added.
Tyler update: Big man Jeremy Tyler, the lone player to be drafted from a bj-league team (Tokyo Apache) into the NBA (second round in 2011), is in his third season, with a third different team, in the Chinese Basketball Association.
This season, the 25-year-old Tyler is competing for the Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions.
Through Wednesday, Tyler had played in 19 of Tianjin’s 25 games. He’s averaging 21.4 points and 9.9 rebounds, according to asia-basket.com. He had a 41-point game against the Beijing Ducks — Stephon Marbury’s team — in November.
Tyler spent the 2010-11 campaign with the Apache, who folded after that season. He played in the NBA Development League and for the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks before heading to China in 2014.
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