Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tulsa beats Maine, but some troublesome numbers stand out

Every once in a while, you'll see a player who gets in the zone. He hits a shot or two, and suddenly everything begins falling for him. It's pretty amazing when it happens, and Larry Owens found himself in the zone in the first half of Thursday's game against Maine.

Owens scored 23 of his 37 points before halftime as the 66ers looked like world-beaters at times on their way to a 113-107 matinee win on Kids Day at the Tulsa Convention Center. Of course, in a six-point win, there were also times that Tulsa looked like it might give up a big lead to Maine ... but it never happened, even when the Red Claws clipped the lead down to five points with less than a minute to go.

What made the difference on Thursday? Defense. As Nate Tibbetts told me after the game, his team clamped down on Maine with some tenacious defense. The league's leading scorer, Morris Almond, was held to 20 points in his Red Claw debut ... but maybe even more impressive was the fact that, of Almond's four fouls, three were offensive. Deron Washington did a nice job on Almond and when Washington wasn't there, there were plenty of 66ers to fill in the gaps. Maine had 22 turnovers in the game.

Owens was all smiles after the game, talking about how the team's energy was funneled to him in the first half as he was in the zone. He told me he'd celebrate today, but knew it was back to practice and business as usual tomorrow as the 66ers have a little bit of time before their next game (Thursday at home against Springfield).

So all is well, right? The 66ers beat a team that's among the best in the league, and were up by as many as 25 points during the contest, so that's good, right? Absolutely ... but there were threee potential problem spots in the box score after the game.

1. Playing minutes. Cecil Brown wasn't available. Latavious Williams dinged his shoulder early in the game and missed most of the contest. Rodney Webb was tending to personal/family matters and unavailable. Steven Hill, in his first game back from injury, wasn't ready to contribute a great deal on Thursday. Translation ... by the time the second quarter was in full swing, Tulsa had just six players available in the rotation.

Owens never came out of the game and Shakur was only out for a little more than two minutes. Along with Moses Ehambe and Deron Washington, they were part of a quartet that played more than 40 minutes on Thursday. The injury bug has bitten Tulsa hard lately, and here's hoping a week of non-play will help the depth situation.

2. Rebounds. With Williams on the bench, and Hill and DeVon Hardin each working their way back from injury, Tulsa was soundly outrebounded 51-34. Tibbetts is constantly preaching the importance of winning the battle of the boards, and depth will help with this number if the injuries aren't too long-lasting.

3. Second-chance points. Maine held a 26-3 advantage in this. Of course, when you have the kind of rebounding edge that the Red Claws held, it makes sense. Still ... 26-3?

Absolutely a huge amount of props to the 66ers for winning this game, despite the difficulties. Now 66er fans can hope that a week of rest will restore depth to a lineup that sorely needs it.

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