"Close, but no cigar" has been a recurring theme for the Memphis Hustle NBA G League basketball team at the Landers Center for many of their 18 home games this inaugural season.
The young club has either stayed close but not pick up a victory at the end, or make a strong fourth-quarter comeback, only to run out of time.
The Hustle's efforts to push one into the win column came up short once again Friday night in their 122-116 loss to the Agua Caliente Clippers, dropping the Hustle to 15-22 for the season.
The Clippers (18-20) led by no more than five points at 111-106 in the final four minutes from Friday's game before the final outcome and the Hustle actually held a 102-101 lead at 4:04 left in the game.
But Memphis couldn't come up with the points down the stretch to get ahead and steal a win.
Memphis was also without Durand Scott, not with the team Friday on a personal issue, and Thursday waived Trahson Burrell, who had averaged 13.3 points per game in 32 games with the Hustle, including 22 starts.
"We just couldn't get stops when we needed them," said Hustle coach Glynn Cyprien. "Defense, I thought, let us down. When you get into a dogfight like it was tonight, you’ve got to be able to get stops at the end of the game and, unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that.”
A dogfight was a good description of Friday’s game. While the Clippers had as much as an 11-point lead at one point, there were 15 lead changes and the game was tied five times. Memphis led by as much as six points in the loss.
The Hustle was led by rookie Jeremy Morgan, who scored 23 points and added nine rebounds for Memphis. Morgan, who led Northern Iowa in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals as a senior last year, nailed 9-of-14 from the floor and 5-of-8 from three-point range in the game.
“I thought Jeremy played well,” Cyprien said. “Obviously he made shots, but he was good on defense. We expect that out of him and he is starting to get his rhythm back after an injury. We really think highly of Jeremy.”
“Teammates did a good job of finding me when I was open,” Morgan added. “I wish we could have gotten that win.”
Kobi Simmons, one of two Memphis Grizzlies’ two-way players on the roster, added 22 points. Omari Johnson scored 16 and Marquis Teague had 14 points for the Hustle, but starting center Chance Comanche mustered only five points in the loss.
Myke Henry, the Hustle’s other two-way player, scored 14 points off the bench.
Agua Caliente, which went out to a 36-27 lead after one quarter, was led by J.J. O’Brien with 31 points, followed by Ike Iroegbu with 29 points.
The Hustle rallied in the second quarter by a 31-25 count, but trailed 61-58 at halftime. Memphis continued to come back in the third quarter and led 92-91 after three quarters, but the Clippers outscored the Hustle 31-24 in the final 12 minutes.
Memphis left after the game to head to Grand Rapids, Mich., where the Hustle play a Sunday afternoon game against the Drive. It is the only time the teams will meet this season.
Memphis will bring a 9-10 road record into the game in Grand Rapids. The Hustle dropped to 6-12 in home games this year with Friday's loss.
Bob Bakken: email@example.com