In just its second season as an NBA G League franchise, the Memphis Hustle will do something its NBA parent Memphis Grizzlies will not be doing this year: go to the playoffs.
Tuesday night, the Hustle became one of the six Western Conference squads to punch their ticket into the postseason with a dramatic 131-127 overtime victory over the Salt Lake City Stars to wrap up their final road trip of the regular season in Utah.
The stunning victory came as the Hustle trailed by as much as 24 points midway through the third quarter. The comeback ties the largest return from behind in team history and clinches the fifth seed in the Western Conference.
In the playoffs, the three division champion automatically qualify along with the next three-best records among conference teams, or wild cards. The two best division champs receive first-round byes and the remaining teams are paired to play a single-elimination opening round.
From there, the next two rounds are also single-elimination down to the championship round, which is a best-of-three series.
Tuesday night, Grizzlies assignee Tyler Dorsey scored 28 of his 34 points in the second half and overtime to aid the Hustle comeback and also finished with eight boards, four assists and three steals. Fellow assignee Jevon Carter set the tone in overtime, opening things up with a three-pointer to take Memphis’ first lead since the 5:36 mark of the first quarter. Grayson Allen responded with a three to tie things up before the teams traded baskets. Tarik Phillip gave Memphis the lead for good with a finger roll off a give-and-go from Carter before Dorsey iced the game with a pair of free throws.
Carter finished with 17 points, six assists and four rebounds. Phillip scored 15 points, while Julian Washburn knocked down 4-of-5 three-pointers on his way to 16 points. Yuta Watanabe (13 points) also reached double figures.
While not having any further playoff implications now, Friday’s regular season finale against Oklahoma City will likely be the Hustle’s final appearance this season at the Landers Center, and the last time for basketball fans to see the team this year, barring a championship series appearance.
Game time at the Landers Center is 7 p.m. for the Hustle and the Blue.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune