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Chiba Cruises Past TNT to Usher in the East Asia Super League Campaign

Balanced scoring helped carry the B.League's Jets past their Filipino opponent in the first East Asia Super League match between the clubs.

FUNABASHI, Chiba Prefecture ― Leading by the slimmest of margins at halftime, the Chiba Jets excelled in the third quarter against TNT Tropang Giga in the teams' East Asia Super League Group A opener.

The Jets extended their lead to 15 points entering the fourth quarter and cruised to a 93-75 victory on Wednesday night, October 11 at Funabashi Arena.

Chiba, one of two B.League representatives in the 2023-24 EASL season, outscored visiting TNT, a Philippine Basketball Association club, 26-12 in the pivotal third quarter.

The Jets' Justyn Mutts made a layup 10 seconds into the third to initiate a game-changing scoring spurt. After former NBA forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson missed a fadeaway jumper for TNT, Ira Brown grabbed the defensive rebound and delivered an authoritative dunk on Chiba's next possession. Mutts made a pinpoint pass to Brown, leading to a 49-44 lead at the 9:16 mark, and the Jets were showing signs of playing with better rhythm than they had in the first 20 minutes against their Filipino opponent.

Hollis-Jefferson sank his next shot, another fadeaway jumper, to cut the lead to 49-46. But Mutts, running the offense with alert eyes, dished the ball to DJ Stephens on the perimeter, and the veteran American forward canned a 3-pointer to double the lead.

With 5:51 to play in the third, TNT veteran guard Jayson "The Blur" Castro made a driving layup, cutting the hosts' advantage to 58-51.

East Asia Super League
Jets guard Asato Ogawa passes the ball in the East Asia Super League opener. (ⒸEASL)

Pivotal Run in East Asia Super League Opener

Then the Jets, the B.League championship runners-up in the 2022-23 season, responded with a 13-2 run that ate up nearly half of the quarter. Stephens buried a 3-pointer to ignite the scoring run. Teammate Ren Kanechika knocked down back-to-back 3s to extend the lead to 69-53 with 2:13 remaining in the third.

Chiba took a 71-56 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Brown and Stephens led the Jets with 19 points apiece. Stephens was 4-for-9 from 3-point range and hauled in nine rebounds, while Brown collected 12 boards.

Kanechika added 18 points off the bench, making 6 of 10 3s and scoring 12 points in the second half. Mutts chipped in with nine points, nine rebounds and four assists. Sota Okura had 12 points. Asato Ogawa finished with six points and six assists, and Fumio Nishimura matched Ogawa's scoring total.

For TNT, former NBA player Quincy Miller had 22 points, six rebounds and three steals. Teammate Glenn Khobuntin contributed 15 points, but only had two in the second half. Castro scored 12 points.

TNT's offense revolved around Hollis-Jefferson, who scored 15 points but was held to 6-for-28 shooting by Chiba's locked-in defenders. He missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.

East Asia Super League
TNT's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson drives to the basket as Chiba's Justyn Mutts defends in the third quarter. (ⒸEASL)

Post-Game Observations from the Coaches

Chiba coach John Patrick, in his second season at the helm, said he was pleased that his team responded to the challenge of facing an unfamiliar opponent with limited time to prepare. The Jets entered the EASL match on the heels of consecutive road losses (91-82 and 89-86) to the B.League's Nagasaki Velca on Sunday and Monday.

"We played our best basketball toward the end of the match," Patrick said in a courtside interview heard throughout the arena.

He added, "Some of the young guys stepped up and hit shots in the second half."

Among the Jets' young clutch performers on Wednesday night were the 20-year-old Kanechika and Okura, who is 24.

TNT bench boss Jojo Lastimosa, whose team begins its Philippines Basketball Association season on November 5, said the squad is not in peak physical fitness yet.

"We played really well in the first half," Lastimosa told reporters. "In the second half we lost our stamina."

It's just a shoe!

A Look Ahead in the B.League and the EASL

Chiba plays host to the Shinshu Brave Warriors (2-0) in its first home series of the 2023-24 B.League season on Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15 at Funabashi Arena.

After that, Taiwan's Taipei Fubon Braves face the visiting Jets on October 18. On the same night, the reigning B.League champion Ryukyu Golden Kings meet South Korea's Seoul SK Knights at Okinawa Arena in an EASL Group B match.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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