Beachcombings: Cruisin' Over the Holidays
By Kevin Danna
What's going on with the Santa Cruz Warriors? Sea Dubs broadcaster Kevin Danna provides an insider's look at the team.
1. Sea Dubs Cruisin’ Over the Holidays
The Santa Cruz Warriors are playing some seriously good ball right now, having won six out of seven following a mini-slump in which they lost four of six. Entering Thursday, Santa Cruz is 16-5, which is tied for the best record in the Western Conference and G League overall with the Oklahoma City Blue.
Last week, the Sea Dubs earned their first back-to-back road sweep of the same team since the 2014-15 season (when Santa Cruz last won the G League title) by taking out the Iowa Wolves on Thursday and Friday before completing a 4-0 season series sweep of the Northern Arizona Suns after beating Phoenix’s G League squad 111-103 Sunday night in Surf City.
It wasn’t easy, though. On Thursday in Des Moines, Santa Cruz found itself down 97-86 with 6:50 to go before roaring back in front thanks to a 15-2 run, eventually winning the game on Kendrick Nunn’s jumper in the lane with 7.7 seconds left to secure the 107-105 victory. On Sunday against the Suns, Santa Cruz squandered a 16-point lead in the second quarter and was trailing 82-81 entering the fourth before icing out the Suns with a 7-1 stretch in the final two minutes to pull away for the eight-point triumph.
Sandwiched in between those two games was the best defensive performance of the season for Santa Cruz, a 97-77 win over Iowa on Friday in which the Warriors surrendered just 14 points in the first quarter and 13 in the fourth.
2. Have Yourself a Game, Deyonta
Head coach Aaron Miles has said nothing but good things about Deyonta Davis all season long and the impact he has on the floor, even when it hasn’t always shown up in the box score. Well, Davis certainly made his presence felt on the stat sheet Sunday against Northern Arizona, going for a career-high 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks on an efficient 9-of-13 night from the floor. And, entering the game with just six free-throw attempts on the season, the two-year NBA veteran out of Michigan State shot four freebies, making three.
“He’s been really coachable, and we’ve been talking to him about a lot of different things and the abilities he has, and trying to push him to that full potential, and I thought he was really good,” Miles said after Sunday’s win. “I was happy for him. I know he’s been waiting for that.”
Davis, now averaging 6.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks, is the only Sea Dub who has started and played every game this year for Santa Cruz. He has done a much better job of staying out of foul trouble in recent games as well, something that plagued him earlier in the season. The Sea Dubs are a +28 over the last two games when Davis is on the floor.
3. Kendrick Continues to Dominate Off the Bench
In what is becoming a motif of the 2018-19 season, Kendrick Nunn keeps on stepping up in crunch time for the Sea Dubs. In addition to his game-winner against Iowa on Thursday, Nunn led the squad with 24 points and four steals to go along with eight rebounds and four assists, scoring eight points in the fourth. On Sunday, Nunn gave Santa Cruz the lead for good in the fourth quarter on a 3-point play in which he posterized Northern Arizona’s Retin Obasohan, one of the strongest-looking dudes you’ll see in the G (and a very solid player to boot).
If you ask Nunn, he’ll tell you that his dunk over Texas’ Kostas Antetokounmpo (younger brother of The Greek Freak) earlier this season was better, but it turned out to be a momentum-turning play nonetheless.
Nunn led the team in scoring again Sunday night with 25 points, doing it on a very efficient 9-of-15 effort from the floor and 5-of-7 from downtown.
4. Juan Gets His Hustle On
Juan Toscano-Anderson has made a nice name for himself in the G League as a hustle guy and glue guy, diving for loose balls and gobbling up offensive rebounds to get the Sea Dubs extra possessions.
On Thursday at Iowa, that hustle came up big in the clutch, as Toscano-Anderson corralled a missed Nunn jumper and put it home to tie the game up at 105 with 37.8 seconds remaining. That play put the finishing touches on a nine-point, 10-rebound performance, with four of those boards coming on the offensive end and four coming in the fourth quarter.
He backed that up with an eight-point, five-rebound outing Friday against the Wolves and a seven-point, nine-board (three offensive), two-assist, two-steal and one-block performance Sunday against the Suns. Dude has a knack for filling up the stat sheet.
5. Texas Triangle, G League Style
The Sea Dubs don’t play at home again until Jan. 16, spending the next week and a half or so on the road in the state of Texas. Santa Cruz bookends their Texas tour with games against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Houston Rockets) on Jan. 3 and 12 and plays the Texas Legends (Dallas Mavericks) and Austin Spurs (San Antonio) on Jan. 5 and 10, respectively, in between the games against the Vipers. RGV upset the Sea Dubs by one point in Santa Cruz earlier this year, Texas split a back-to-back in Surf City and the Spurs are the reigning G League champs, so a 2-2 trip would be a success.
We’ll even get a little bit of G League/NBA synergy Thursday, with Santa Cruz and RGV tipping off two and a half hours before their parent clubs do battle at Oracle in a rematch of last year’s NBA Western Conference Finals.
Here’s to hoping that Santa Cruz’s travel plans go smoother this trip. On Saturday, with the team trying to get back home from Iowa, things went just a tad haywire. The guys had to get up at 5:45 a.m. for a 7:30 flight … that stayed on the tarmac for close to two hours before getting cancelled. The team then had to bus down to Kansas City to catch a flight to Portland … and then catch a flight to Oakland … before finally arriving in Santa Cruz after 11 p.m.
It’s not always like that in the G League, trust me, but that’ll happen every now and then when you’re taking commercial flights in wintry conditions.
“It was terrible … That was the worst traveling day I’ve had, ever,” Kendrick Nunn laughingly recalled on Sunday. “I’m just glad I got to my bed as soon as I could to stretch out.”
Aaron Miles took it in stride.
“It is what it is. It was good. We got here safely. It wasn’t ideal, but that’s part of the G,” he chuckled.