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Evessa and Diamond Dolphins Setting the Pace in the B.League

Osaka and Nagoya both improved to 6-0 in the new B.League season with weekend sweeps on October 21-22. They are the league's lone unbeaten teams.

Three weeks into the 2023-24 B.League season, two teams remain unbeaten: the Osaka Evessa and Nagoya Diamond Dolphins, Western Conference rivals with identical 6-0 records.

The Evessa, directed by second-year bench boss Mathias Fischer, are the 24-team circuit's highest-scoring team (90.8 points per game).

Osaka completed a two-game series sweep of the Ibaraki Robots (0-6) on Sunday, October 22, winning 93-85 in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture.

It was a quintessential team victory for the Evessa, who had six double-digit scorers. What's more, their bench players put 51 points on the board.

The Evessa trailed 47-46 at halftime, then grabbed momentum by outscoring the hosts 25-13 in the third quarter.

Evessa big man Shawn Long in action against the Robots on October 22. (B.LEAGUE)

Ex-Levanga Hokkaido standout Shawn Long led Osaka with 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting and 13 rebounds. Evessa newcomer Angelo Caloiaro, a 34-year-old former University of San Francisco forward, chipped in with 13 points and five assists.

Takuya Hashimoto added 12 points, Asahi Tajima and Makoto Kinoshita finished with 11 apiece and Takanobu Nishikawa had a season-high 10-point effort.

The Evessa have scored 90 or more points in three consecutive games.

Osaka's high-scoring trademark in the early stretch of the 60-game campaign is producing impressive results, including a series-opening 100-83 win over Ibaraki on Saturday, October 21.

Evessa coach Mathias Fischer discusses strategy with the team's players. (B.LEAGUE)

Insights from Osaka Coach Fischer and Veteran Guard Tajima

"We are happy to have won the second game as well," Fischer told reporters on Sunday. "As expected, it was a difficult game. 

"In the first half, we had a hard time finding our rhythm both offensively and defensively. But after talking at halftime about being physical on defense, we were able to get off to a good start in the second half and limit the Robots to 13 points in the third quarter, which was the reason we won."

Analyzing the impact of Evessa's backups, citing their 51 points in the weekend rematch, Fischer remarked: "[This] was a big factor in our victory, and each of them did their job well and played their own basketball."

Tajima, a former Robots player who joined the Evessa in the offseason, said his team displayed resilience in the series finale.

"We had a difficult start. But we did what we had to do throughout the 40 minutes and were able to win the game," the veteran guard told reporters at Adastria Mito Arena. "I am happy that we were able to win again as a team."

As newcomers and returning players work to bolster the team's chemistry, Tajima admitted he wants to be proactive in making a positive impact.

"I would like to get more familiar with the team, get to know the players and build up the team so that no matter who plays, everyone can play Evessa basketball," Tajima commented.

Evessa forward Angelo Caloiaro looks to score against the Robots. (B.LEAGUE)

Statistical Strengths of the Evessa

Six games out of 60 is a small sample size, but here are a few statistics that have helped carry Osaka to its 6-0 start.

The Evessa are No 2 in the league in assists (21.5 per game) and third in 3-point shooting percentage (39.3).

Caloiaro, who suited up for Turkish club Galatasaray in the 2022-23 season, is tied for third in scoring (20.8 points per game), while Long is tied for sixth (19.2). Long, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette alum, is No 2 in rebounding (12.5).

In addition, Hashimoto is fourth among all B1 players in 3-point shooting (52.6%). He knocked down 4 of 6 in Sunday's triumph over the Robots.

Nagoya Diamond Dolphins forward Yutaro Suda in action against the Shinshu Brave Warriors on October 22 in Nagano. (B.LEAGUE)

It's just a shoe!

Diamond Dolphins Hammer Brave Warriors

The Shinshu Brave Warriors held a 25-21 lead over the Diamond Dolphins at the end of the first quarter on Sunday in Nagano.

For the final 30 minutes of the game, Nagoya dominated.

The Diamond Dolphins seized control in the second quarter, putting 32 points on the board and holding the hosts to17. Nagoya recorded a 101-75 victory. 

A day earlier, the Diamond Dolphins triumphed 72-64.

On Sunday, Washington State product Robert Franks, a B.League newcomer this season, had a team-high 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting for Nagoya. Teammates Yutaro Suda and Joshua Smith added 16 points apiece. Ray Parks Jr finished with 11 points and seven assists. Brazilian big man Tim Soares provided 10 points. Tatsuya Ito doled out seven assists.

Nagoya's Joshua Smith (B.LEAGUE)

Smith, a 31-year-old former Georgetown University center who spent the previous five seasons with the Toyama Grouses, was a dynamic presence. In 17:44 of court time, he made 7 of 8 shots from the floor and corralled eight rebounds.

Diamond Dolphins coach Shawn Dennis guides his team from the sideline on October 22. (B.LEAGUE)

Insights on Nagoya's Latest B.League Victory

After collecting their sixth win in as many games to open the season, Diamond Dolphins coach Shawn Dennis said he was pleased with his team's effort.

"Our goal today was to play like the Dolphins," Dennis said. "This means hindering our opponents on defense, moving the ball, and setting good screens. We were able to do these things in the second quarter [utilizing] a big lineup."

Dennis also expressed empathy for the injury-plagued Brave Warriors (2-4), who have lost four straight games.

"I know how Shinshu feels because the Dolphins experienced a lot of injuries last season," Dennis told reporters. "I hope Shinshu will go on and believe in themselves as they are."

Ito also commended Shinshu after Sunday's game, pointing out that its competitive spirit posed a challenge for Nagoya.

"Shinshu has a lot of injuries, but we knew they were not an easy opponent to beat," Ito acknowledged.

"In Game 1, we spent some time trying to break through individually on offense," he said.

Ito added, "So in Game 2, we tried to move the ball and attack with everyone."

Nagoya playmaker Tatsuya Ito (B.LEAGUE)

Stat Leaders for the Diamond Dolphins

Ito is fourth in the B.League in assists (5.7), and the Diamond Dolphins are first among teams in the same category (22.0).

Nagoya is the circuit's fifth-highest scoring team (86.7). And the Diamond Dolphins are also No 1 in 3-point shooting percentage (41.1) and fourth in rebounding (43.0 per game).

B.League's Best Defense Through Week 3

The Eastern Conference-leading Alvark Tokyo are one of six B.League teams with 5-1 records. Defense has fueled the Alvark's strong start, with the capital city club holding foes to a league-low 62.8 points per game.

In the Central, the Kawasaki Brave Thunders and San-en NeoPhoenix, winners of five and four straight games, respectively, are also 5-1.

Among the West's eight clubs, the Nagasaki Velca, Shimane Susanoo Magic and Ryukyu Golden Kings are also within close range of the unbeaten Evessa and Diamond Dolphins ― all at 5-1 through October 22. Shimane has won four in a row.

Ryukyu Golden Kings guard Keita Imamura launches a long-range shot in the third quarter against the Yokohama B-Corsairs on October 22 at Yokohama International Swimming Pool. (B.LEAGUE)

Golden Kings Bounce Back to Earn Weekend Split

After an 89-66 road defeat to the Yokohama B-Corsairs on Saturday, the Golden Kings responded by trouncing the hosts 88-70 the next day.

Keita Imamura scored a team-high 21 points for Ryukyu, the reigning B.League champion. Allen Durham had 16 and Alex Kirk added 13.

"I think we were able to achieve a good result because we all got the ball rolling and played with a high level of defensive intensity," Imamura said of the Golden Kings' effective overall performance.

Golden Kings coach Dai Oketani said, "We improved from yesterday's game and played good offense. Once again, we realized the importance of the offensive end over the past two days. Today's game was a battle with an awareness of moving the ball, and we were able to step up our game as a team."

The B-Corsairs (3-3) trailed 47-36 at halftime and 67-50 entering the final period.

Yokohama star Yuki Kawamura, the league's leading scorer (26.3 points per game), poured in 23 points.

A Look Ahead

All 24 B1 teams are in action with midweek games on Wednesday, October 25.

Here's the schedule: Ryukyu vs Kawasaki, Hokkaido vs Chiba, Sendai vs Gunma, Yokohama vs Shibuya, Toyama vs Mikawa, San-en vs Fighting Eagles Nagoya, Nagoya Diamond Dolphins vs Hiroshima, Kyoto vs Osaka, Saga vs Shinshu, Nagasaki vs Shimane, Utsunomiya vs Ibaraki and Tokyo vs Akita.


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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