After surrendering a 19-point lead to the OKC Blue last Tuesday in another home loss, the Salt Lake City Stars began their weekend back-to-back with a morale boosting win over the Iowa Energy before succumbing to a multitude of injuries in a resounding defeat by the Canton Charge.
It looked as if the Stars weren’t quite over their late collapse to OKC in the first quarter of Friday’s game against Iowa as the reeling Energy began the game with a 15-3 run that turned into a 22-12 lead by the end of the first period.
Iowa, who came to Salt Lake City with the worst record in the D-League (2-18), was in the midst of a 14-game losing streak and seemed poised to finally end their losing ways after holding the Stars to a 22.7 percent (5-for-22) shooting performance from the floor in the opening quarter.
Fortunately for Salt Lake City, their shooting woes completely vanished in the second quarter as their 22.7 shooting percentage skyrocketed to 63.6 percent after hitting 14-of-22 shots from the floor. A 10-2 run by the Stars to open the quarter brought the score to 22-24. After nipping at the heels of the Energy for a few minutes, shots from J.J. O’Brien and Utah Jazz assignee Joel Bolomboy gave SLC their first lead of the game with a 36-34 advantage with 4:19 left in the quarter.
SLC’s hot second quarter performance would continue as the Stars finished the half on a 10-3 run that would give them a 50-43 lead at the halftime break.
As has been the case several times throughout the season for the Stars, the hot shooting and energy level decreased in the third quarter as Iowa outscored SLC 16-14 in a defensive bout. The Energy even regained the lead for a moment after guard Terry Whisnant hit a three-pointer to make the score 59-57 Iowa with 3:33 remaining in the quarter, but the Stars answered with a three-pointer from Jaylen Bland who began a 7-0 run that helped keep the Energy at bay as the quarter ended with SLC leading 64-59.
As they had done to end the first half, the Stars came out in the fourth quarter and out-shot Iowa behind the sharp-shooting of guards Marcus Paige and Jaylen Bland. Paige finished with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting (5-of-10 from distance), while Bland pitched in nine points by hitting three of his five attempts from beyond the arc.
“It’s been a while since he’s had really significant minutes,” Stars head coach Dean Cooper said about SLC draft pick Jaylen Bland. “I was really pleased with his shooting … I drafted him to do exactly that.”
The hot shooting from the guards combined with another double-double for Bolomboy (13 points, 15 rebounds) and a career-high night for guard Tyrone Wallace (24 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) led to a 30-point fourth quarter for the Stars as they increased Iowa’s losing streak to 15 games in a 94-87 victory. Despite a late 12-2 run by the Energy to end the game, Cooper was pleased with his squad’s defensive performance in the fourth quarter.
“When you have a lead … you’ve got to do the little things,” Cooper said. “I thought our fourth quarter defense was really good up until that late barrage. We did a really good job of executing on both ends of the floor and I thought we did a really good job of recognizing what they do.”
— Salt Lake City Stars (@slcstars) January 7, 2017
The second game of the weekend back-to-back featured the Cleveland Cavaliers’ affiliate Canton Charge come to town as the Stars attempted to string together consecutive wins for the first time this season.
After trailing by as many as 12 in the first quarter, things looked promising for the Stars as the hot shooting of Paige and Bland continued throughout the quarter. After cutting the lead to four points late in the quarter, SLC went into the second trailing 26-20.
The game would never be that close again.
With a laundry-list of injuries already strewn throughout the Stars’ roster including Diamond Stone (Leg), Quincy Ford (Groin), and Patrick Simon (Calf), SLC’s roster was further weakened by the absence of Jermaine Taylor (Illness) before Bolomboy and O’Brien also left Saturday’s game with in-game injuries.
With Bolomboy and O’Brien leaving the game, the Charge took advantage of a Stars squad that had almost no size left to guard the paint and collect defensive rebounds. Canton scored 37 points in the second quarter to take a 63-33 halftime lead that they would never relinquish.
As expected, Canton outscored SLC 52-20 in the paint and completely controlled the boards by a 58-31 margin. The Charge also finished with eight different double-digit scorers including guard John Holland who finished tied with SLC guard Marcus Paige for a game-high of 16 points.
Next up for the Stars is another back-to-back with the Austin Spurs and the Grand Rapids Drive coming to Utah on Tuesday and Wednesday before SLC hits the road for four straight games.