The henchmen off the bench for the Oklahoma City Blue helped hold off the Sioux Falls Skyforce 115-108 at the Sanford Pentagon on New Year’s Eve.

No doubt the starting lineups played their part in the seven-point win for the Blue (12-10), but a key third quarter burst was propelled by crucial contributions from their second unit. A shot in the lane by Skyforce guard Larry Drew II (16 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds) which could have made it a one-point game was blocked by guard Myke Henry (23 points, 5 steals and 2 blocks) who then found fellow bench player Bryce Alford (15 points) for a transition three. It was the first of eight straight to enlarge the Blue advantage to 88-77 to conclude the frame.

As the game wound down, Sioux Falls (9-13) was riding the exploits of Tony Mitchell who came off the home team’s bench to tally 30 points and 8 rebounds including 12 in the fourth quarter. A three by Ike Nwamu (26 points, 8 assists) with 2:23 left made it 104-102 in favor of the Blue, but that’s as close it would get at the end.

In the overall assessment, Skyforce Head Coach Nevada Smith pointed to one area that gave his team trouble. It especially came through in late-game situations.

“We turned it over too much. Outside of a couple miscommunications on pick and rolls, our half-court defense was good. We had some unforced turnovers and that’s what’s been our Achilles heel. They are not doing anything to us, we’re just throwing them the ball. We have to value the basketball and getting a good shot every time down the court.”

Skyforce center Jimmie Taylor (8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks) noted the lack of success in close with by being outscored by 30 points in the paint (52-22).

“They wanted us to shoot threes. (In the paint), they were helping so much by bumping our (pick and roll guy) and clogging the paint. They were taking the chance with us at the three-point line.”

The outstanding season continues for Daniel Hamilton, who is on a two-way contract for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He logged his seventh triple-double of the season with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. Let’s also credit the Blue’s Markel Brown who scored 16 of his 23 in the first quarter of the contest.

Sioux Falls will have another encounter at the Sanford Pentagon Tuesday (January 2) when the South Bay Lakers arrive. One half hour after the Skyforce tip, Oklahoma City’s next game begins in Iowa.


 

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