YOKOHAMA – The Kawasaki Brave Thunders didn’t need a monster game from star center Nick Fazekas in order to cruise past the Yokohama B-Corsairs on Sunday.
Instead, Fazekas, a former NBA center, had a relatively quiet 20-point afternoon that was but one element to the winning formula. His team’s sizzling 3-point shooting stole the spotlight in a 95-59 win over the B-Corsairs at Yokohama International Swimming Center.
The Brave Thunders made 16 of 24 3-point attempts, shooting them at a jaw-dropping 60.3 percent clip. Eight Kawasaki players sank at least one 3-pointers.
Which isn’t to say that Fazekas, the B. League’s leading scorer (28.8 points per game), was an afterthought. He was efficient, making 8 of 13 shots in just under 23 minutes of court time.
His teammates started taking — and making — 3-point shots and never let up for 40 minutes.
Yokohama’s defense never found an effective way to match Kawasaki’s potent pick-and-roll and rapid-fire passes that led to good looks from the perimeter. The Brave Thunders zipped passes, often without dribbling the ball, and spaced the floor well to create space for their spot-up shooters.
The plan worked remarkably well.
Small forward Takahiro Kurihara had a team-high five 3s (his eight long-range attempts also led the Brave Thunders (11-3). Naoto Tsuji connected on 4 of 8. Yuma Fujii made both of his 3-point tries. Ryusei Shinoyama, the dynamic playmaker who handed out seven assists to ignite the offense, added a 3, as did Yuya Kamata, Takumi Hasegawa, Hiroki Taniguchi and Fazekas.
Kawasaki is fourth in the 18-team first division in 3-point shooting percentage (35.3).
On Sunday, it seemed as if every 3-point shot attempted by a Kawasaki player would sail through the net.
On the other hand, Yokohama made 4 of 16.
So the math adds up this way: 48 points from beyond the arc for the Brave Thunders and 12 for the B-Corsairs in a clash of Kanagawa clubs. And that point differential also happens to be the exact margin in the final score.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Brave Thunders coach Takuya Kita commended his players for their determination and effort on defense.
“The good start and (exceptional) 3-point shooting” fueled the victory, he said.
Kita’s counterpart, Yokohama bench boss Taketo Aoki, said his team needs to do a better job defending the pick-and-roll and play more aggressively in guarding 3-point shooters. He acknowledged it was a challenge facing Kawasaki’s potent 3-point shooting attack.
While Kawasaki’s offense clicked — in addition to Fazekas, Tsuji scored 16 points, Kurihara poured in 15, Ryan Spangler had 11, Fujii put eight on the board — Yokohama never found a balanced attack in the series finale.
Takuya Kawamura led the B-Corsairs with 16 points, Jason Washburn had 14 and Jeff Parmer 13. The rest of the team — nine other players — combined for just 16 points.
This game got away in a hurry from Yokohama.
The visitors used a 12-0 spurt to pull ahead 30-11 late in the first quarter, getting back-to-back 3s from Tsuji to cap the run.
Kawasaki led 33-13 entering the second stanza, and at that point Fazekas and Spangler already had 10 points apiece, and floor leader Shinoyama had five assists on the stat sheet. (And Kita’s club shot 72.2 percent in the opening quarter.)
Things never got better for Yokohama.
After a woeful first quarter, the B-Corsairs were outscored 21-6 over the next 10 minutes, and they faced a 54-19 deficit entering the third quarter.
In the first half, only Kawamura (nine points), Washburn (six) and Parmer (four) scored for Yokohama, which turned the ball over 11 times before intermission.
In the third quarter, the B-Corsairs offense awoke from its first-half hibernation, but Aoki’s club also needed to perform a defensive miracle to begin the process of making a remarkable comeback. (The bottom line: When Fazekas went to the hole to early in the third quarter and banked the ball in off the backboard for an easy deuce, the Brave Thunders had just eclipsed 60 points before the B-Corsairs had reached 30. That, officially, made it 61-25.)
Instead, both teams had 24 third-quarter points, and Yokohama trailed 78-43 entering the final stanza.
Late in the fourth quarter, the B-Corsairs trailed by 40 points, for the second time in the game, after a Taniguchi layup.
Then Ryuichi Horikawa drained two late free throws and Washburn had a jam seconds away from the game’s conclusion.
After the game, an upbeat Fazekas told The Japan Times that “I’ve always felt comfortable with what we are doing here at Toshiba. They try to make me the focal point of the offense, and I’ve always strived to be the most efficient player I can be — shooting high percentages and trying to make as many shots as possible, that’s what I’ve always tried to do throughout my entire career.”
With the team’s shots dropping one after another through the net, including a shot clock-buzzer-beating 3 in the fourth by Kurihara that made it 87-47, Fazekas could only marvel at his team’s offensive performance.
“Our 3-point shooters got hot today,” he said.
On Saturday, Kawasaki held off Yokohama’s spirited comeback, the B-Corsairs falling 83-81 after falling behind 28-16 at the end of the opening quarter.
“They exerted a lot of energy, so at the same time we just played even keel yesterday and today and we felt like we had the advantage . . . just keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll make shots,” Fazekas said.
Commenting on the strong execution of the team’s offense, Fazekas had this to say: “We’re a really good screen-and-roll team . . . (and) the initiation of the screen-and-roll attracts a lot of attention . . . there’s a lot of guys moving around. Ryan, he can find open spots, and I can pick-and-pop and do a lot of things, and when you’ve got guys like Ryusei and Tsuji, these guys that can pass the ball, then all of a sudden you are getting in 3-on-1 and 3-on-2 situations, and we’ll take those any day of the week.
“It helps when you have guys that can pass.”
Both teams now enter a bye week with a chance to get some rest and make adjustments to their offensive and defensive schemes.
Meanwhile, Parmer acknowledged his team is a work in progress, trying to mesh a large group of mostly new players together into a cohesive unit.
“Even the wins we had this season, it was still a learning experience,” Parmer said. “So we are learning from our wins and our losses. That’s the good thing, but at the same time we know and we understand that we are all new and it’s going to take awhile for us to get that chemistry down to where we need it to be.”
Brex 92, Levanga 67
In Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, Ryan Rossiter’s 26-point, 15-rebound, four-assist performance helped guide the hosts to a comprehensive beatdown of Hokkaido.
Tochigi (12-2) out-rebounded the visitors 54-24 and completed a series sweep.
Naoya Kumagae scored 11 points for the Brex, Yusuke Endo had 10 and Yuta Tabuse supplied seven points and eight assists with a pair of steals for good measure. Kosuke Takeuchi had seven points and nine boards. Nine players scored six or more points for the Brex.
Tochigi trailed 38-37 at halftime. The Brex seized control in the third quarter, holding Hokkaido to nine points.
The hosts outscored the Levanga 55-29 in the second half.
Daniel Miller finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and four blocks for Hokkaido (4-10). Daisuke Noguchi and Takehiko Orimo added 16 and 10 points, respectively.
Albirex BB 92, NeoPhoenix 87
In Hamamatsu, Clint Chapman and Davante Gardner combined for 48 points as Niigata bounced back from a Saturday defeat to San-en.
Chapman had a team-best 25 points, topped the rebounding chart (12 boards) and blocked two shots for the Albirex (8-6). Gardner also contributed seven rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. High-energy guard Shunki Hatakeyama played all 40 minutes and finished with 15 points, five boards and five assists, and Kimitake Sato put 11 points on the board.
Niigata converted 31 of 57 2-point shots and turned the ball over only five times.
For the NeoPhoenix (8-6), Robert Dozier scored 19 points and hauled in seven rebounds, while Shuto Tawatari contributed 13 points. Atsuya Ota had 10 points, Shingo Okada eight and Richard Roby seven along with seven rebounds.
SeaHorses 86, Lakestars 73
In Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, Gavin Edwards scored 23 points and Kosuke Kanamaru had 21 as Mikawa completed a series sweep of Shiga.
Makoto Hiejima poured in 16 points and Isaac Butts had 15 for the SeaHorses (10-4). J.R. Sakuragi dished out seven assists.
Julian Mavunga led the Lakestars (2-12) with 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Faye Samba added 12 points.
Mikawa grabbed 45 rebounds and held the visitors to 26.
Sunrockers 82, Grouses 64
In Toyama, the hosts had no answers for Shibuya’s potent 3-point shooting and dropped their 13th straight game.
The Sunrockers (8-6) made 15 of 29 shots from beyond the arc, including Kenta Hirose’s 5-for-8. Hirose finished with 20 points and picked up three steals.
Aki Chambers had 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Shibuya. He was another big performer on the perimeter, canning 4 of 6 3s. Takashi Ito added 14 points and four assists and Ira Brown had nine points, eight boards and six helpers. RT Guinn supplied 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
The Surockers took a 43-26 lead into the third quarter.
Takeshi Mito had 19 points for the Grouses (1-13) and Angel Garcia scored 16. Sam Willard added eight points and eight rebounds.
Evessa 86, Golden Kings 85
In Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, Xavier Gibson scored the winning basket with 1 second remaining as Osaka won back-to-back road games over the weekend.
Shigeyuki Kinjo had given the Golden Kings an 85-84 lead with 4 seconds left. Then Evessa coach Dai Oketani called a timeout and drew up a final play.
Josh Harrellson sparked Osaka (7-7) with 23 points and 20 boards and Gibson had a 21-point performance. Takuya Soma chipped in with nine points and Shota Konno and Hiroyuki Kinoshita both had eight.
Ryukyu led 67-56 after three quarters.
Shuhei Kitagawa and Ryuichi Kishimoto paced the Kings (7-7) with 21 points apiece. Kinjo, Kazuya “J.” Hatano and Lamont Hamilton all scored 12 points. Hamilton led the hosts with 12 rebounds.
Jets 85, 89ers 75
In Sendai, Tyler Stone’s 19-point, nine-rebound, four-assist effort helped steer Chiba past the 89ers for the second consecutive day.
Yuki Togashi, Michael Parker and Kosuke Ishii provided 14 points apiece for the Jets (7-7). Parker also snatched 12 rebounds. Forward Ryumu Ono added 13 points and five boards.
For Sendai (6-8), big man Tshilidzi Nephawe had 17 points and eight rebounds, Takayuki Kumagai scored 15 points and Masaharu Kataoka had 14.. Dieye Sakamoto added nine points and 13 rebounds.
Hannaryz 77, Diamond Dolphins 69 (OT)
In Kyoto, the hosts outlasted Nagoya in the bonus period to collect their second victory in as many days.
Kyoto’s Genki Kojima forced overtime by knocking down a jumper with 4 seconds left in the fourth quarter, tying it up at 64-64.
Kevin Kotzur paced the Hannaryz (6-8) with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Kojima, Hayato Kawashima, Yusuke Okada, Lawrence Hill and Shingo Utsumi all scored 11 points apiece.
Jordan Bachynski had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Diamond Dolphins (9-5) and Justin Burrell added 13 points and 10 boards. Takaya Sasayama finished with 12 points, four assists and three steals and Takumi Ishizaki and Toshihiro Nakatsuka added nine apiece.
Nagoya made 6 of 27 3-point shots.
Alvark 86, Northern Happinets 55
In Tokyo, the Alvark jumped out to a 27-point halftime lead and hammered Akita in the series opener.
Diante Garrett sparked Tokyo (11-2) with 18 points and five assists and Zack Baranski added 14 points. Takeki Shonaka and Keijuro Matsui both scored nine points and veteran big man Joji Takeuchi had eight points and 13 rebounds. Daiki Tanaka contributed seven points.
The Alvark sank 13 of 23 3-point attempts.
Deshawn Stephens led the Happinets (2-11) with 19 points and 11 boards and Scott Morrison scored 10 points. Seiya Ando and Kevin Palmer both had seven-point games.
Second-division update: Here are results from Sunday’s games: Tokyo Excellence 82, Fighting Eagles Nagoya 76; Iwate Big Bulls 81, Ibaraki Robots 65; Fukushima Firebonds 90, Yamagata Wyverns 78; Shinshu Brave Warriors 89, Earthfriends Tokyo Z 63; and Nishinomiya Storks 83, Bambitious Nara 79.