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Phoenix Suns' D-League Bakersfield Jam Week in Review

The Jam played two scintillating games this week, losing to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in Triple OT on Tuesday, and beating Reno in regulation on Friday.

The Jam faced two tough opponents this week in the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the solo affiliate of the Houston Rockets and the Reno Bighorns, the solo affiliate of the Sacramento Kings.

The Jam were defeated by RGV in a triple overtime thriller, 151-148. The Jam were led by Elijah Millsap, who put up a triple double; Xavier Munford, who was 2 rebounds shy of a triple double; and Earl Barron, who had 30 points and 15 rebounds. RGV was led by assignee Nick Johnson, who scored 39 points, and former Sun Earl Clark, who had 35 points and 11 rebounds.

Against the Bighorns, the Jam managed to put one in the win column, pulling away late to finish up 154-143. And no, that wasn't in overtime. The Jam enjoyed strong performances from Mac Koshwal (28 points on 13-14 shooting), Munford (31 points) and Millsap (26 points), while the Bighorns were led by Ra'Shad James (25 points) and Brady Heslip (23 points).

Jam vs. Vipers

In the first game for the Jam that didn't feature Tyler Ennis and T.J. Warren, who left the team to rejoin the Suns, the team faced the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Vipers are known for their heavy reliance on the three point shot, and this game did not fail to meet that expectation. The Vipers threw up 43 three pointers, hitting 20 of them. The Jam struggled all night to contain the three point shooting, and it was what ended up killing them in the waning minutes.

The team struggled to find efficient scoring without Warren and Ennis. Despite the fact that he was able to put up a triple double, Millsap shot only 26% on 31 shots. Ball handling also became a difficulty, with 20 turnovers in the game.

A bright spot for the team was the emergence of Munford. In the first two games, Munford had been relatively quiet coming off of the bench behind Ennis. Thrust into the starting role again, Munford delivered well this game. One area of potential concern for the rookie is ball-handling. While 5 turnovers is not terrible considering the three overtimes, this is an area Munford will definitely need to improve on in the future.

The poor play from starters Jamil Wilson and Casey Prather was rather unexpected. RGV does not feature particularly strong wings (Johnson was the primary ball handler), and as such this should have been a game where both players could thrive. However, they both shot poorly, Wilson in particular, and Prather got into foul trouble that forced him to the bench for a time.

Overall, you cannot be too disappointed with a triple overtime loss to a team that features 2 NBA assignees.

Jam vs. Bighorns

In their second game of the week, the Jam took on the Reno Bighorns. The Bighorns recently hired a coach tied to Grinnell College, the Division III team well known for its frenetic offense and the exploits of its leading scorer, Jack Taylor. The Bighorns have been given free rein by the Kings front office to run the same kind of fast paced, zero-defense system. Through the teams first few games, 6'1 guard Brady Heslip has been the embodiment of this philosophy, and become something of a media darling, even being featured in a New York Times article.

The Bighorns ended up being the victims of Mac Koshwal's coming out party for the season. After 3 mostly ho-hum games, Koshwal came out firing this game, and hit 13 of his 14 shots for 28 points. Millsap managed to have a much more efficient game against Reno, hitting 7 of 17 shots and having only 5 turnovers.

The team at times struggled to keep up with the frantic pace, but were helped by strong performances from the bench players. Robert Vaden (15 points), Chris Wright (10 points) and Renaldo Major (12 points) combined to shoot almost 70% off the bench, including 60% from 3.

While the team was able to produce offensively, they were not terribly successful in containing the Bighorns' offense. Considering Coach Nate Bjorkgren is known as favoring a more active defensive style than the Suns' standard style, he couldn't have been all that happy with the overall defensive effort.

Next Up

Tuesday, November 25th at 7 pm - Bakersfield Jam vs. Santa Cruz Warriors - Live on Youtube

Friday, November 28th at 5 pm - Bakersfield Jam vs. Texas Legends - Live on Youtube

Saturday, November 30th at 5 pm - Bakersfield Jam vs. Texas Legends - Live on Youtube

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