Game Preview: Sioux Falls Skyforce (24-15) vs. Erie BayHawks (14-25)

Monday, March 8, 2010

You would think the BayHawks' schedule would get easier after finishing off a weekend series against the team with the best record in the the league, the Iowa Energy. But up next for Erie is a showdown with the league's hottest team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, winners of nine straight games.

On the positive side, the special 11 a.m. tipoff time Tuesday morning should be a little easier on the BayHawks since the game is at home. The early start time is part of the 2nd annual School Kids Jam, which means the arena will be packed with youngsters.

The BayHawks and Skyforce have not played each other since they split two games in early December in Sioux Falls.

Game 40 Preview: Sioux Falls Skyforce (24-15) vs. Erie BayHawks (14-25)

Sioux Falls coming in: The Skyforce have won nine in row, including a pair of victories over Iowa and a dramatic 99-98 win yesterday over Maine on a Leemire Goldwire 3-pointer with just 0.5 seconds left. Whereas Erie went just 1-8 in February, Sioux Falls enjoyed an 8-1 record last month and have stayed hot through three games in March. Their recent winning streak has them in second place in the East (six games back of first place Iowa) and fourth overall in the D-League.

Erie coming in: The BayHawks are coming off of arguably their biggest win of the season, a hard-fought 127-120 win over Iowa. It was Erie's first win against the Energy in 10 games this season and it came with a season-high in points. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for Erie and was just their second win in their past 11 games. Although wins have been gard to come by, the BayHawks' offense has made some strides lately. They've scored more than 100 points in four of their last five games after topping the century mark just six times all season before that.

BayHawks keys to success:

  • Play to your strengths: embrace smallball
    Since acquiring Blake Ahearn, coach John Treloar has started a smallball lineup with one big man (John Bryant) and four smalls (shooting guard/small forward Jackie Manuel plus guards Mike Gansey, Ahearn, and Cedric Jackson. I don't have access to the advanced statistics I'd like to see if this has, in fact, been the team's most effective lineup the past two games, but based on my personal observations, it certainly wouldn't surprise me. The combination of Jackson's driving ability and Gansey and Ahearn's shooting has worked very well. Jackson can get into the paint at will and has attempted 25 free throws in the past two games. Over the same stretch, Gansey and Ahearn have combined to shoot 17-30 from 3-point range.

  • Find an answer for Alexander Johnson.
    The Skyforce forward has been on a tear as of late, averaging 30.3 points and 12.3 rebounds over the past four games, picking up the slack since Reggie Williams was called up by the Golden State Warriors and earning D-League Performer of the Week honors. He's doing all this while coming off the bench, but he is still playing 31.2 minutes per night. Johnson has been hard to handle for anyone, but considering the point I just made above about smallball, he poses an added challenge for the BayHawks.

    The 6'9," 206-pound Johnson has three inches and nearly 20 pounds on Erie's best defender, Jackie Manuel, which may press Kyle Goldcamp into some additional playing time. Though he's averaging just 9.5 minutes per game, Goldcamp is probably Erie's most physical player. He has had foul trouble (7.7 fouls per 48 minutes...if that stat has any relevance), but he makes his opponent work for every shot and tends to frustrate them with his physicality. Jarvis Gunter and Ivan Harris are two other options for defending Johnson. Gunter is Erie's quickest big man and a talented shot blocker. Harris, more known for his offense has been called into post-defense duty lately with Erie's smaller roster, sometimes even moonlighting at the center position.

  • Get an early start to the early start.
    The 11 a.m. tip will fill like 10 a.m. for Sioux Falls (you know, because of the time zone difference). That's early in the day to be playing basketball. Considering how hot the Skyforce has been lately, the first few minutes may be all Erie has to take advantage of this opportunity before muscle memory kicks in and the game intensity picks up. I'm looking forward to seeing what a crowd of hundreds of kids feels/sounds like. Hopefully it's enough to get Erie an early advantage as they try to pull another upset.


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About this blog/blogger

Blog Talk BayHawk is an unofficial Erie BayHawks blog covering the NBA D-League. It features opinions and information about the NBADL and the Erie BayHawks. Blog Talk BayHawk is written from a basketball fan’s perspective to fill In the gaps left by professional journalists’ coverage of BayHawks basketball and the Erie professional basketball scene.

Matt Hubert is a 25-year-old writer and basketball fanatic born and raised in Erie, Pa. He graduated from Mercyhurst College in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in English and a dual concentration in writing and creative writing. Matt's not wavering from his stance as a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, but he will cover the BayHawks' NBA affiliates in Cleveland and Toronto when it makes sense to do so throughout the year.

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