Kings win well with everyone scoring – Ryukyu Golden Kings vs Niigata Albirex BB GAME2 –

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GAME 2 between the Ryukyu Golden Kings and Niigata Albirex BB took place at the Okinawa Arena on Sunday, October 16, 2022.

The previous day, GAME 1 was won by Kings, who dominated inside, 93-53, a 40-point margin. Will they win GAME2 on this day as well?

 

“Glue Guy” Josh Duncan

Kings starters are #4 Koh Flippin, #7 Allen Durham, #24 Naoki Tashiro, #30 Keita Imamura, and #45 Jack Cooley.

Niigata’s starters were #3 Reone Shibuta, #4 Keve Alma, #10 Tensho Sugimoto, #25 Rosco Allen, and #34 Zen Endo. This is the same lineup as in Game 1.

The first star of the game was Kings #1 Josh Duncan, who entered the court with 4:13 left in the first quarter and exploded for 14 consecutive points, including two 3-pointers. He showed off his wide shooting range.

 

Since joining the team, Duncan said he wanted to be the “Glue Guy” among Kings’ foreign inside players.

The “Glue Guy,” in other words, is the glue that holds the teammates together. During this period, Duncan did not continue to score single-handedly, but rather was the first one to screen in the team offense, creating a gap in the opponent’s defense, and then taking a pass from a teammate to make a shot.

“Glue Guy” Duncan’s efforts helped Kings take a 14-point lead in the first quarter, 28-14.

 

Kings plagued by zone defense

In the second quarter, Niigata struck back with a zone defense, mixing a 2-3 zone, a 3-2 zone, and a match-up zone to confuse Kings offense.

Kings’ fluid ball movement in the first quarter came to a halt, as Kings HC Oketani said “In the second quarter, we didn’t know what was the right way to play the offense.” at the post-game press conference.

Since the second half of last season, more and more teams have been playing zone defense against the Kings. 

In the season opener against Utsunomiya, the second game against Nagoya D, and Game 1 against Niigata, all opponents played zone defense for long periods of time.

In other words, the common perception in the league is that a zone defense is the way to beat Kings. If they do not break that common understanding, they will not be able to win the championship this season.

 

Kings growing in actual competition

Niigata continued to use a zone defense in the third quarter. However, Kings did not make the same mistake as in the second quarter.

A zone defense is a defense that protects an area, and the key is how to create a “numerical advantage” where the ball is.

When two offensive players stay in an area that one defensive player can protect, it is easy for the defense to have a “numerical advantage”.

However, if the offensive players are able to maintain proper positioning, the offensive team will have a “numerical advantage”.

In all zone defenses, the corner is the critical point. If the shooters can hit high-percentage 3-pointers from the corners, the zone defense will collapse with a bang.

In the third quarter, Kings put their zone defense strategy into practice.

With 6:01 left in the third quarter, five Kings players took up a lot of space on the court, and Imamura and Durham used a ball pick at 45 degrees right to get the Niigata defense’s attention, and finally Tashiro, free in the left corner, made a 3-pointer.

 

Cooley, who intentionally penetrated into the paint area close to the ball, and Flippin, who did not move from the right corner, also contributed with good hidden plays that did not touch the ball.

HC Oketani also said that before the start of the third quarter, everyone was aware of “creating a line that does not get between the defense” and “not staying as an extension of your (opponent’s) match-up man and your (teammate’s) ball man.

 

“The confusing times made the game a chance for us to grow,” HC Oketani said. 

“We were able to find ‘answers’ in the match, so it was a win for the team to get better.”

As HC Oketani said, Kings are trying to continue to grow through trial and error in the actual game.

Kings were up by 22 points, 67-45, at the end of three quarters.

Kings continued to torment Niigata with their solid defense, and with 7:13 left in the fourth quarter, Flippin hit a powerful tomahawk dunk.

 

Then, with 4:38 left in the fourth quarter, Kings’ Asian At-Large player #42 Jay Washington made his signature 3-pointer, and with 2:49 left, #11 Reita Matsumoto also made a 3-point shot, and all Kings players in the game scored on the night.

 

Kings players congratulated their fellow players from the bench for their success.

The Kings won by a final score of 99-65, with all players scoring, to improve to 5-1 and take first place in Western conference by goal difference.

 

Imamura plays an active role with a passion for his hometown

Kata Imamura was born and raised in Niigata, Japan, and went on to become a professional player from his hometown Niigata University of Management.

After a match against Niigata Albirex BB, a team he has played for four seasons since his professional debut in the B League, he spoke about his special feelings toward his hometown club.

“It was a special game for me. I was playing in the hope that I could cheer up the Niigata Albirex BB boosters a little by showing them how I have grown as a player. I think I was able to show that part of myself, so I was happy.”

From a promising rookie of Niigata Albirex BB, Kata Imamura has grown into an ace of the Ryukyu Golden Kings and a member of the Japanese national team.

His feelings for his hometown must have reached the Niigata boosters who came all the way to the Okinawa Arena.