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Santa Cruz Weekly Write-Up: Sea Dubs Prepare for the Playoff Push
by Kevin Danna
Santa Cruz Warriors broadcaster Kevin Danna provides an update on what's going on with the Sea Dubs.
1. How's the team doing?
To put it somewhat bluntly, this six-game homestand hasn’t gone as planned. Feeling good coming off a 4-2 road trip to the Eastern time zone, the Sea Dubs have struggled at home, losing four of five in Northern California and five of their last six overall to drop to 17-15 on the season.
This probably isn’t the time for me to point out that I once wrote that Santa Cruz had the talent to win 35 games (they play 50, so Santa Cruz would have to end the season on an 18-game winning streak), but the caveat there was that was a possibility if everything stayed held to form, which of course never happens in the G League. The Sea Dubs haven’t been the same team without Georges Niang, who was called up to the Utah Jazz during the Showcase and actually appeared in Utah’s emphatic win over Golden State Tuesday night. He just brought so much to the table, whether it was 3-point shooting, low-post scoring, distribution, rebounding...the list goes on. Also not helping matters is that while Chris Boucher and Michael Gbinije have been finding a groove, they are still on minutes restrictions. Terrence Jones has also missed a handful of games tending to a personal matter but returned to the lineup for the Oracle game on Sunday.
Speaking of which, the Oracle game was tons of fun, despite the 105-97 loss to the Austin Spurs. More than 15,000 people showed up to support the Sea Dubs, the Kevin Durant bobblehead (which I’m still trying to get my hands on) giveaway was pretty sweet, and it’s always great to play in an NBA gym. Now, the Sea Dubs historically haven’t had solid results in NBA gyms, going 0-2 at Oracle Arena and 1-4 all-time in NBA arenas (Santa Cruz won at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, lost to Austin in San Antonio and blew a 25-point lead to Reno last year at the newly-minted Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. At least this year’s Oracle game was closer than last year’s (Santa Cruz lost to Oklahoma City 105-96 in Oracle last season; like I said, closer!).
While the Sea Dubs are on a slide, they’ve been playing some very tough teams, and they’ve shown they can more than hang with these teams – Santa Cruz has had a double-digit lead in three of the four losses on this homestand, including a 16-point third-quarter lead against Iowa on Jan. 19 and an 18-point third-quarter lead against Oklahoma City last Thursday. This team definitely has the talent to get it done and make a push for the playoffs.
2. How are the guys on the Golden State roster doing?
If you missed the Oracle game, then you missed a couple of highlight-reel dunks from Damian Jones. First, he had arguably the Santa Cruz dunk of the year when he posterized San Antonio Spurs two-way forward Matt Costello to oblivion. Next, he alley-ooped home a lob only he would have been able to finish. Jones finished the game with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks on 7-of-10 shooting to maintain his G League-leading field goal percentage at 68.1 percent. You’d like to see the rebounding numbers go up for him (he has been held below 10 rebounds in seven-straight games and under his season average of 8.1 in each of his last four), but he is certainly developing nicely on offense, hitting a sweeping hook in the lane on Sunday (I’m pretty sure we hadn’t seen that from Damian before).
Chris Boucher had his most effective game of the season at Oracle, as the Golden State two-way guy went for 12 points and eight rebounds in just 15 minutes of action. Obviously and understandably so, Golden State and Santa Cruz wants to take it slow with a guy who tore his ACL last March, but I long for the day that we get to see Boucher off a minutes restriction. In four games, he’s averaging 10.8 points and 1.3 blocks in 14.7 minutes per outing. Imagine the possibilities!
No real update on Quinn Cook; he just continues to prove that he is an NBA player. If there’s any justice in this professional basketball world (and there usually isn’t when it comes to guys deserving of NBA roster spots; numbers game more often than not), Cook will be on a full-time NBA contract next year as part of somebody’s 15-man roster instead of being on another 2-way deal. He’s too good for the G League. I find it hard to believe that there are 450 players in the NBA more deserving a full-time NBA contract than Quinn Cook.
3. Who else has been impressing lately?
My hat goes off to Damion Lee. This has to be a frustrating time for him on the floor, as he is just 7 for his last 51 from beyond the arc in his last 13 games to drop his 3-point field goal percentage on the season total to 26.7 percent. Mind you, this guy shot 47 percent from three last year with the Maine Red Claws before tearing his ACL. A lot of his shots recently have rattled in and out, and a weaker player would let his frustrations show (you don’t want to be around me after I’ve missed five in a row in a pickup game).
Despite these perimeter struggles, Lee finds a way to make an impact offensively, be it getting to the line or cutting through the lane for a layup. Lee scored 15 points in the Sunday loss to Austin in Oakland despite missing his only 3-point attempt and misfiring on his first four shots from the field. He was relentless in attacking the rim, getting a couple of nice paint finishes and hitting all nine of his free-throw attempts. And, while it wasn’t a 3-pointer, Lee did knock down a 20-footer late in the game. Hopefully that’s a sign of better things to come from distance for Damion, who is second in the G League in free-throw percentage at 91.7 percent. That kind of touch at the line lets you know he still has it; it’s just a matter of seeing the ball go through the hoop.
4. What's next?
The six-game homestand concludes tonight against the Maine Red Claws, who are making their first trip to Santa Cruz to play the Warriors in four years (Maine also came to Santa Cruz in 2015 and 2016 for the G League Showcase but did not square off against the Sea Dubs there either year). In fact, the last time Maine played the Sea Dubs in Kaiser Permanente Arena, Atlanta Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon and Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry were suiting up for Santa Cruz (it was actually Dedmon’s last game in a Sea Dubs uniform).
After Wednesday night’s game, Santa Cruz hits the road for a pair of games against Northern Arizona (Saturday) and Salt Lake City (Tuesday) before returning to the KPA to greet the Texas Legends and South Bay Lakers over the weekend of Feb. 9-11. Don’t miss out on the Sea Dubs’ playoff chase!