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Saturday, March 10, 2007
HeatDevils need more Ayer
By ED ODEVEN
After the opening tipoff, every statistic that is quickly jotted down on a sheet of paper or frantically typed into a computer becomes a permanent piece of a game's history.
Call it the evidence.
Or maybe this: Clues that help explain why one team has more wins than losses.
Beyond the final score there are other numbers that emerge as trends, figures that detail what makes a certain team succeed or struggle.
Case in point: The Oita HeatDevils are 5-0 in games in which center Chris Ayer scores 20 or more points.
The 23-year-old Arizona native had a season-best 24-point outing last Sunday, helping Oita defeat the Niigata Albirex BB 82-79.
His previous 20-point game (exactly 20) was on Jan. 20, a 93-87 Oita victory over the Takamatsu Five Arrows.
On Jan. 12 and 13, the former Loyola Marymount (Calif.) University player had 23 and 22 points in succession as the HeatDevils handed the Saitama Broncos 94-81 and 80-73 defeats.
That was the best offensive stretch of the season for Ayer, a 208-cm pro.
He previously went nine games in between 20-point efforts. He scored 22 in a 107-79 victory over the Tokyo Apache on Dec. 2.
Ayer has been plagued by foul trouble this season. He has been whistled for a fifth foul eight times, forcing him to sit out the rest of the game.
That, of course, has kept the gifted offensive player off the court more than Oita coach Dai Oketani would like.
Another statistical trend reminds bj-league observers why Osaka Evessa forward David Palmer is such a valuable contributor to his team's success.
Palmer, who played college ball at Southern Utah University, has scored in double digits in 26 straight games since putting eight and nine points on the board on Nov. 17 and 18, back-to-back losses. He has had one 25-point outing, a pair of 26-point efforts and twice hit for 27 in that stretch.
Palmer is the first-place Evessa's second-leading scorer (16.3 points per game). Only Lynn Washington (21.6 ppg) is putting more points on the board.
With a knack for hitting outside shots, Palmer stretches opposing defenses and creates space inside for big men Washington and Jeff Newton, as well as helping fellow long-range marksmen Masashi Joho and Matt Lottich get good looks.
Making smart decisions with the basketball is another Palmer trademark. He had seven turnovers on Nov. 5 in his team's second game of the season. Since then, he has made only 50. For a guy who's played 1,054 minutes to date, that's a fantastic indicator of his all-around hoops talent.
FLASHBACK: The Evessa (23-9) stretched their lead in the league standings from three games to four after a pair of wins over the host Toyama Grouses last weekend.
The Takamatsu Five Arrows (19-13) are in second, followed by third-place clubs Oita and Niigata (18-14).
Osaka's offensive balance keyed both victories, as five players scored in double figures in both games for Kensaku Tennichi's club.
In Saturday's 76-61 win, Palmer had a team-high 15 points, Lottich scored 14 and Newton did the grunt work inside en route to a double-double (13 points, 19 rebounds).
In Sunday's 79-57 triumph, Washington had a team-best 19 points.
Nile Murry led the Grouses in scoring both games with 16 and 19, respectively.
The Five Arrows overcame a 44-point game by Sendai 89ers forward Mamadou Diouf to win 84-82 on the road last Saturday.
Takamatsu's trio of 16-point scorers -- Reggie Warren, Rasheed Sparks and Yu Okada -- and a 55-41 edge on the boards keyed the win.
But it was the type of win that gave Five Arrows coach Motofumi Aoki a few more gray hairs.
One reason: His team shot 8-for-18 from the free-throw line.
Sendai rebounded for an 80-74 victory on Sunday, getting 28 more points from Diouf, 20 from Michael Chappell and 14 from Akita product Kenichi Takahashi.
The Five Arrows shot a woeful 3-for-24 from 3-point range in the loss.
At Ariake Colosseum, the Broncos topped the Apache 86-79 on Saturday.
Gordon James led the victors with 32, while Kohei Aoki's 24 were tops for Tokyo.
Saitama earned the sweep by beating the Apache 86-79 a day later, the third straight game Tokyo's John "Helicopter" Humphrey, the league-leading scorer, was sidelined due to a wrist injury.
Andrew Feeley scored 16 points, Gordon James had 15 and 14 rebounds and Taishiro Shimizu added 14 for the Broncos.
In defeat, Dameion Baker and Kohei Aoki finished with 26 and 22, respectively.
Niigata recorded a 104-84 road win over Oita on Saturday. Naoto Kosuge led the way with 25 points, Jack Hartman had 19 and Nick Davis 17 for the Albirex.
Andy Ellis' 33 points carried the HeatDevils, who also got 25 from Mikey Marshall.
In their well-played rematch on Sunday, Oita posted an 82-79 overtime win despite Ellis' absence from the lineup.
Ayer scored the aforementioned 24 points and Justin Allen added a season-best 23 for the hosts.
Hartman's 22 led Niigata.