Fireballs Split Sim, Winning at Austin then Losing at Home
- By Jron Magcale, Day 17, 2023
LOS ANGELES - The Fireballs finished on a split sim as the team was victorious on the road but failed to close out a tight one at home. The team seems still on the process of finding cohesion and production from the team. They taken care of business when they visited the Rockets in Houston and failed to close out the tight game at home vs the Skyhawks:
Los Angeles Escapes Austin with a W
Rockets - 108
Fireballs - 112
The Fireballs fresh off a win in Kansas City, takes another road win against the the hot Rockets team who won 4 out of their 6 games coming to the game. The Fireballs and Rockets was off to a hot start as both teams traded buckets after buckets, after 2 quarters the Rockets looks like they are the ones dictating the pace with the lead 62-56, the Fireballs came up big in the 2nd half behind Chris LaCruz double-double performance and solid shooting (28 points (9/18 FG, 4/6 3FG, 6/6 FT, 12 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block while committing 1 TO), Devan Carroll with another all-around game filling the stat sheet with 19 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks but struggled shooting from the outside connecting only 1 on 7 attempts but was efficient overall (9/18 FG), an unlikely scoring output by defense-first center Keemar Campbell who posted 18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal on an efficient 8/11 shooting.
The Rockets was lead by high scoring guard Quinton Rice's 20 points, big factor was Zach McCray's all around effort, 15 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Rockets bench also contributed lead by former Fireball spark plug guard Cassius Tyson's 14 points (4/6 3FG) and Xavier Turner's 12 points on (4/4 FG, 4/4 FT). However the Fireballs went aggressive finishing the game as they outscored the Rockets 56-46 in the second half. The Rockets lead most of the game but with 5:47 remaining in the game, the Fireballs went on to take the lead never looked back as they finish the Rockets 114-108.
"You have to come prepared when coming in Austin, we have memorable battles here before and with a new look team, it's definitely a new challenge. This is the 1st time I come to Austin without Wing (Rubin Wingfield), so it's totally different from what we're used to. We knew we have an advantage at the point guard match-up so we kind of like let Chris (LaCruz) take over on that last quarter. Their defense has been tought he 1st half and we needed to be aggressive coming out the break and that is where we focused on." Assistant Coach Alton Wilkes said about the win.
Fireballs Loses a Thriller at Home vs Skyhawks
Fireballs - 101
Skyhawks - 105
Rubin Wingfield got the better of Chris LaCruz as the 2 court generals face off and Wing dropped 37 points on LaCruz who was shooting awful (13 points, 3/17 FG, 0/5 3FG). The 2 PGs has been into a lot of memorable matchups when Wingfield was with the Rockets, but the new home for Wing has the elite PG looking good, at least on this game, besides dropping 37 points (15/24 FG, 5/9 3FG), he dished out 5 assists, 2 steals and a rebound. LaCruz was just limited to just 24 minutes as his bad shooting forced Coach Wilkes to sit him down and work with backup PG TJ Holloway who had 13 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 0 turnovers on 19 minutes of playing time. The Fireballs was lead by 17 points from Devan Carroll who had his usual stat-filling self (12 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a steal).
Off the bench besides Holloway, rookie Teague and back-up center Guzo each had 10 markers. Teague also contributed 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal shooting 3/4 from beyond the arc and 3/7 overall FG. Swingman Lamar Claxton also contributed 20 points for St. Louis and Mark Hunter scores 14 points as well. The Fireballs had a shot to a 2-0 sim but the struggles of the team shooting the basket has been a point of concern, in this game their bench helped them to keep the game close 48-22 but their lack of scores in the paint is concerning.
Coach Wilkes talked about the game after: "The game was close by the end of the game, we tried to rally but by then it was too late our slow 2nd quarter where we were held to 13 points haunted us in the late game. We need to establish our identity and we failed to do that here at home. Chris (LaCruz) struggled and we can't let that dictate our game, TJ did great stepping in for Chris but our overall backcourt shooting struggles lingers and that is something we needed to address.
The team will again have a back to back as they will fly to Dallas on Day 19 and then go back in LA to take on Eastern Conference powerhouse Toronto Huskies on Day 20. Hopefully the adjustments that the team will make helps the team to win some ball games.