The Kawasaki Brave Thunders are playing high-caliber basketball as the B.League’s 2021-22 regular season inches closer to the finish line.
The Brave Thunders recorded an 85-53 home victory over the Alvark Tokyo on Sunday, May 1 at Todoroki Arena, extending their winning streak to five.
Kawasaki opened the game on a 29-0 run and led 31-2 after the opening quarter over the injury-riddled Alvark, who played without injured stars Alex Kirk and Ryan Rossiter.
The visitors trailed 44-19 entering the third quarter.
By the end of the game, the Brave Thunders became the third B.League first-division club to pick up its 40th win this season.
Nick Fazekas paced the Brave Thunders (40-13) with 23 points and added six rebounds and five assists.
Fazekas led all players with 11 points in the first quarter. The Alvark made 1 of 15 shots from the floor in the opening stanza.
Kawasaki's Jordan Heath buried 5 of 8 3-point attempts in a 20-point effort. Pablo Aguilar finished with a double-double (10 points, 10 boards). High-energy guard Yuma Fujii contributed eight points and five assists.
Several weeks ago, the Ryukyu Golden Kings (47-6 through Sunday) became the first team to reach the 40-victory plateau.
The Shimane Susanoo Magic (40-14) notched victory No. 40 on Saturday against the Shiga Lakestars, winning 102-79 in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.
Brave Thunders big man Jordan Heath drives to the basket. (B.LEAGUE)
In jumping out to the aforementioned 29-point lead, Heath, a former Canisius (New York) College player, said energy was the key catalyst for his team.
“Today we were talking about putting out energy from the start of the game, and I thought that led to the fact that we were able to keep our opponent to two points in the first quarter, and that was the reason for the victory,” said Heath, who’s in his third season with the Brave Thunders.
Kawasaki sits in second place in the East with a .755 winning percentage. The reigning champion Chiba Jets (33-9), who have played fewer games than all of the B.League first division’s 22 teams, are in first place. The Alvark (38-13, .745 winning percentage) are in third place.
All B1 teams are scheduled to play their final regular-season series on Saturday and Sunday, May 7-8 (see the matchups below).
If the Brave Thunders finish the regular season with two more victories, they will lock up the East’s second position in the final standings, securing the right to host playoff games in the quarterfinals and semifinals. The playoffs get underway on May 12.
“Now that we have a clear goal as a team, I think the team is able to concentrate and fight,” said Heath, who is averaging 11.3 points per game. “I think this goal is the way to win the championship.”
Fujii echoed Heath’s sentiments.
“We still have two games left, so we’ll do our best to win firmly and decide second place on our own,” Fuji, who’s averaging 13.7 points per game, told reporters.
Brave Thunders head coach Kenji Sato said his team’s performance was underscored by “the ability to concentrate and execute at the beginning.”
What else defined it?
“It is the result of talking before the game with the players, [saying] that many people are visiting the venue, and let's express Kawasaki's basketball that has grown so far from the beginning [of the season], I think,” the coach related.
Shuto Ando scored a team-best 16 points for the Alvark. Jordan Taylor added 10 points and Gen Hiraiwa, making his second start of the season, also scored 10 on 5-for-6 shooting.
Shimane's Perrin Buford sizes up the Shiga defense on April 30. (B.LEAGUE)
New Coach Puts Stamp on Shimane
First-year coach Paul Henare has orchestrated the Shimane Susanoo Magic’s big improvement from last season to the current campaign.
By winning their 40th game on April 30, they’ve exceeded their overall performance from 2020-21 in a big way. The Susanoo Magic went 28-32 last season.
Shimane’s latest win, against the Lakestars, included steady offensive output from Seiya Ando (14 points), Nick Kay (13) and Reid Travis and Ryosuke Shirahama (11 apiece).
Small forward Perrin Buford was the game MVP, providing 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the win.
Buford, a Middle Tennessee State product, is in his second season with the Susanoo Magic. He averaged 14.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 44 games (four starts) in 2020-21. This season, he’s produced bigger numbers across the board: 19.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 49 games (22 starts).
Ryukyu's Ryuichi Kishimoto shoots a layup on May 1. (B.LEAGUE)
Golden Kings Earn Bounce-Back Win over Diamond Dolphins
The Ryukyu Golden Kings avenged their series-opening loss to the host Nagoya Diamond Dolphins a day later on Sunday, May 1, winning 88-68.
Nagoya (32-14) opened the weekend with a 73-67 victory.
In the rematch, Dwayne Evans paced the Golden Kings with a game-best 27 points on 12-for-16 shooting. Teammates Allen Durham and Jack Cooley each had 16 points. Guard Koh Flippin supplied five points and six assists. Flippin, who joined the team in the offseason after helping the Chiba Jets win the title last spring, also was a disruptive force on defense, finishing with six steals.
Scott Eatherton led the Diamond Dolphins with 18 points.
A Look Ahead
Here are the pairings for the last weekend of the regular season on May 7-8:
Ryukyu Golden Kings vs. Hiroshima Dragonflies
Levanga Hokkaido vs. Toyama Grouses
Ibaraki Robots vs. Gunma Crane Thunders
Chiba Jets vs. Sunrockers Shibuya
SeaHorses Mikawa vs. Kawasaki Brave Thunders
Osaka Evessa vs. Nagoya Diamond Dolphins
Alvark Tokyo vs. Utsunomiya Brex
Niigata Albirex BB vs. Yokohama B-Corsairs
San-en NeoPhoenix vs. Akita Northern Happinets
Shiga Lakestars vs. Shinshu Brave Warriors
Kyoto Hannaryz vs. Shimane Susanoo Magic
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Author: Ed Odeven