Last week ended with a bit of a cliffhanger, as the Bakersfield Jam were just a game above the .500 mark, and the possibility of the team falling back below .500 was very real. However, the team responded with some key victories, including one that saw the Jam and the Bighorns combine for a remarkable 294 points in regulation. After going undefeated over the last seven days, the Jam now have a bit of a cushion in the standings, at least in the West division, where at 9-5, the team has at least two more wins than every other team.
No one has had a more impressive stint over the last couple weeks than Earl Barron. In fact, the Mississippi-native had been playing at such a high level that he was named the D-League’s top performer of the week.
Barron kept his foot on the proverbial pedal over the last seven days, averaging 25.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, racking up three double-doubles.
While Barron was consistently strong in all three games, the Jam saw different supporting players step up and take on bigger roles in the three wins. In the first game against the Westchester Knicks, it was Elijah Millsap who helped shoulder the load, with 26 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. A few days later, it was Jamil Wilson’s turn to carry the team.
Wilson scored 32 points on just 14 shots, adding 5 rebounds and 3 steals, as the Jam went on to beat the Idaho Stampede by a final score of 114-107.
However, the Jam were not done, as the team still had to face off against the high-scoring Reno Bighorns. This time it was Casey Prather and Chris Wright who combined for 34 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds, while shooting a combined 51.9% from the field. Millsap also had a solid performance in the game, posting 23 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists, but he also committed 6 turnovers and 4 fouls in 33 minutes of action.
One would be hard pressed to find a meaningful negative from the Jam’s week, considering that the team won all three of its games by an average scoreline of 125.3-111.0. I could sit here and complain about the defense, but the Jam actually fared pretty well on that side of the ball, and if you take out the team’s game against Reno (the top scoring team in the D-League), the Jam allowed just 95.5 points per game over the last seven days, compared to 104.8 points per game allowed by the Suns in that span. In fact, Phoenix has allowed its last nine opponents to score more than the Jam’s defensive average last week sans-Reno (95.5), holding opponents to less than 100 in just two of those games.
On the other side of things, the Jam shot much better than they did one week ago, putting together three-straight games with a 30+ shooting percentage from three-point range. In the final game of the week, the Jam shot a blistering 10-of-19 (52.6%) from beyond the arc, defeating Reno in one of the highest scoring games of the season. Bakersfield also shot over 50% from the field in two of its three games, and in the one it didn’t, the team made up for it by getting to the line for 38 free throws.
Numbers to note
1. In their three meetings this year, the Bakersfield Jam and the Reno Bighorns are averaging a combined 285.7 points per game, with an average scoreline of 145.7-140.0. The two teams have done the vast majority of this in regulation, as they’ve played just one overtime period in their three meetings.
2. The Jam have already cracked the 140 point scoring mark three times in 14 games this year, while doing so just once in 50 games one season ago..
3. Elijah Millsap leads the D-League in clutch scoring, with 36 points in games that the Jam are ahead or behind by five or fewer points in, with less than five minutes remaining. Earl Barron is eight in that same statistic, with 23 points, and the two players have a combined clutch plus/minus of +22.
4. Former Florida Gator, Casey Prather (pictured above) has continued to have a roller-coaster type season, scoring 10+ points in five games, while failing to reach seven points in four different games. Prather scored a combined two points in the first two games of last week, before breaking out for 17 points against Reno.
5. Bakersfield only managed to hold an opponent to less than 90 points twice last season, yet they’ve already matched that total, with the second such performance coming as the team held Westchester to 84 points on Saturday.
The Bakersfield Jam will face off against the Oklahoma City Blue in the team’s only game next week, for the second meeting between the two teams this year. In the last game, the Jam won 107-103, as Jamil Wilson led the way, scoring a game-high 22 points, while racking up 6 rebounds and 4 assists. At 4-8, the Blue have the third worst record in the D-League, and they’re one of four teams to be below .500 on the season both on the road and at home.