The Memphis Hustle will play a season-defining back-to-back tonight and tomorrow on the road, starting with the Agua Caliente Clippers tonight at 9 p.m. CT at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 6, the Hustle will take on the Salt Lake City Stars at 8 p.m. CT at Lifetime Activities Center.
The Hustle are currently 0.5 games behind Agua Caliente and Midwest Division rival Sioux Falls Skyforce for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Salt Lake City is currently 0.5 games behind the Hustle. With less than three weeks remaining in the regular season, tonight’s game against Agua Caliente is without a doubt the biggest game in the Hustle’s young history and tomorrow’s game could prove to be just as big, if not bigger.
Memphis has dropped the first two games of this west coast trip and, as a result, has dropped out of the final playoff spot for the time being. The team has also been hit by the injury bug since the All-Star Break with Tyler Harvey missing the last four games, Kyle Casey missing all five (partially due to international duty) and Justin Tillman missing the last two games.
The Hustle have won both of its previous matchups with the Clippers at Landers Center, but both games were decided by three points or less. Clippers two-way player Angel Delgado has been a problem inside for Memphis, averaging 22.5 points and 16.5 rebounds in the two meetings. Delgado has had that type of production consistently throughout the season and the Hustle will need to prevent others from making their mark on this game to help set up a win. The Clippers have won six straight after seemingly being out of the playoff picture prior.
In the team’s one game against Salt Lake City at Landers Center, Memphis picked up a huge 122-119 win and erased an 18-point second-half deficit. Jazz two-way player and Yuta Watanabe’s old teammate at George Washington, Tyler Cavanaugh, tallied 25 points and 15 rebounds and he and Watanabe will be a key matchup to watch tomorrow night. Additionally, former Hustle forward Tanner McGrew has been playing well for the Stars, averaging 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds since joining the team. Salt Lake City picked up a huge win over Raptors 905 last night at home to stay in the thick of the race.
The Hustle will look to Tarik Phillip and Dusty Hannahs to continue their recent production. Hannahs has been one of the most efficient offensive players in the league, shooting a shade under 50 percent from the field, 44.0 percent from three-point range and 90.2 percent from the free throw line, while Phillip has been productive across the board. Phillip approached a triple-double (13 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) in the most recent meeting with the Clippers and averaged 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.13 steals and 1.13 blocks in the month of February. He was the only NBA G League player to average at least 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals in February.
Both two-ways have played well for the Hustle recently as well. Julian Washburn has posted multiple double-doubles recently while Watanabe has followed suit on a couple of occasions. The pair both recorded double-doubles (Watanabe- 22 points, 11 rebounds; Washburn – 15 points, 11 rebounds) in the team’s Feb. 26 win over Rio Grande Valley and combined for 41 points against Stockton on Sunday.
Things won’t get any less significant when the Hustle return to Landers Center on Friday, March 8. Memphis will take on the first place Santa Cruz Warriors after losing the previous two matchups. Single Game Tickets are now available for all games at all Ticketmaster locations, ticketmaster.com, the Landers Center Box Office, online at memphishustle.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000 (TM Charge-By-Phone) or (901) 888-HOOP and pressing 6.