While the rest of us were visiting family, stuffing our faces or pleasantly observing Rudolf Maister day (looking at you, our Slovenian audience), the Bakersfield Jam were hard at work, playing 3 road games in four days from November 29th through December 1st. Before that, they faced off against local rival Santa Cruz on the 25th. The team went 3-1 in these games, losing only the first of their back to back games against the Texas Legends.
Jam 119 vs. Warriors 107
The Warriors are arguably the most talented D-League team at the moment, having cleaned house in the most recent D-League Draft with the selection of players like James Michael McAdoo, Carrick Felix and Aaron Craft.
This game may have been decided in the first quarter, when starting guard Felix went out with what was later confirmed to be a fractured patella. Felix has been a defensive stalwart for the Warriors, and without him the Warriors struggled to defend Elijah Millsap, the Jam's star player and one of the most prolific players in the D-League over the last few seasons.
Millsap would finish the game with 30 points (on 10/18 shooting), 9 assists and 9 rebounds, putting in one of his more efficient showings of the season to date. No one else put up a particularly strong showing, though everyone but Robert Vaden (who played just 6 minutes) scored at least 7 points on the night and 6 guys total were in double figures. The other leading scorers were Mac Koshwal (18 points), Casey Prather (14 points), and Adrian Thomas (12 points). Notably missing from this game, as opposed to most of the games that had happened to this point, was Earl Barron, who was relatively muted this game and put up just 10 points and 6 rebounds in 18 minutes.
For the Warriors, the scoring load was picked up by Joe Alexander, a 27 year old forward out of West Virginia who has been floating around since being taken 8th overall by Milwaukee in 2008. Jamil Wilson was unable to contain Alexander, who made 15 of his 19 shots for 35 points. McAdoo (13 points and 7 rebounds) and Sean Kilpatrick (15 points) also contributed.
Legends 105 vs Jam 94
The Jam had already faced the Legends once this season, having lost to them at home earlier in the season behind the strong play of Bernard James and Renaldo Balkman. The Jam could be fairly certain James wouldn't hurt them this time, as he recently signed a contract to play for the Shanghai Sharks, and were thus expecting a better outcome. Alas, it wasn't to be.
The Jam came out relatively strong to start the game, again behind the play of Millsap, who had 6 points and 3 rebounds. However, after the first quarter the wheels fell off a bit. The team in general shot poorly, shooting just 40% from the field, and had trouble with turnovers (29) and empty possessions due to blocked shots (16).
The standout performers for the Jam were Millsap, who finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds; Earl Barron, who added 24 points and 12 rebounds; and the recently signed Chris Wright, who was signed off of waivers just days earlier (Markeith Cummings was cut); Wright added 16 points.
For the Legends, the big performers were Doron Lamb (who had 20 points, mostly scored off of free throws); Balkman, who had 17 points, 12 rebounds; and Eric Griffin, who had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 8 blocks.
Legends 88 vs. Jam 102
In the second of these teams' back to back games, the Jam came out the victor, having corrected many of the ills from the previous game. The turnovers this game for the Jam were cut to just 19, and only 6 shots were blocked, leading to many more clean looks and far fewer fast break points for the Legends. One thing that was not improved was the team's shooting, which remained tepid 39%.
Part of the poor play may be explained by the absence of starters Casey Prather and Xavier Munford, who sat out this game for unknown reasons. The team was carried by strong performances from Barron (27 points), Wright (23 points) and Millsap (19 points), as well as strong defense from Koshwal.
The Legends, meanwhile, really struggled from behind the line, hitting just 4 three pointers all game. This was largely the difference, as the Jam scored 27 points from behind the arc. The leaders were again Lamb (20 points) and Griffin (16 points). Making his first major minutes appearance of the season was Japanese rookie Yuki Togashi, one of my personal favorites from this past summer league and something of a legend among Japanese basketball fans. Togashi logged 9 minutes and scored 3 points.
The Legends were expecting strong play out of their NBA assignment player Ricky Ledo, who failed to impress, scoring just 8 points on 3-11 shooting, missing all 5 trey attempts and turning the ball over 5 times.
Blue 103 vs. Jam 107
In their 3rd game in 4 nights, the Jam faced off against the Blue, the solo affiliate of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Blue are an unproven team, but feature a lot of young, NCAA D-1 talent.
For the first time in many games, the Jam actually shot a mostly acceptable percentage, hitting 44% of their shots from the field, and decisively won the free throw shooting battle, hitting 83% of their 36 free throws compared to just 67% for the Legends.
The leading cast for the Jam was somewhat familiar, with Millsap (22 points), Wright (15 points) and Barron (13 points, 11 rebounds) all putting in good performances. What really stood out, however, was the play of rookie Jamil Wilson, who had struggled to score in recent games before putting up 22 against the Blue, on 9/20 shooting. Wilson has looked like a defensive stalwart early in the season, so to see him put up strong offensive numbers had to be heartening to Coach Nate Bjorkgren.
The Blue had to have been disappointed with this outcome, considering they had NBA assignment players Grant Jerrett and Mitch McGary with them for the game. Jerrett was an efficient 5/8, scoring 16 points and adding 9 rebounds in just 23 minutes. McGary, meanwhile, was 9/23, and really struggling to hit his shots with consistency against Mac Koshwal. Other strong performers for the Blue included Marquis Teague (18 points) and Michael Jenkins (13 points)