Mexico City Capitanes scuttles Memphis Hustle

Photo: Kenny Lofton Jr. of the Memphis Hustle drives for a layup over Mexico City’s Bruno Caboclo (50) during Tuesday’s game at the Landers Center. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)

After Tuesday night’s 126-112 losing effort to the Capitanes de Ciudad de México (Mexico City) at the Landers Center, the Memphis Hustle find themselves with a 5-6 record in the NBA G League’s season-opening Showcase Cup. 

The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Memphis Grizzlies G League affiliate, but the Hustle have now lost three of their last five games and have won only three of the team’s last nine appearances on the floor. Two of the three wins were what are called Elam Ending overtime victories where the first team to seven points in the extra session wins the game.  

The Tuesday encounter with Capitanes, the Mexico City-based franchise in its second year in the NBA G League, started poorly for the Hustle, with only 22 points scored in the opening quarter and trailing by as many as 20 points before cutting the gap to 36-22 at quarter’s end. 

Coach Jason March said his group didn’t play up to their Hustle namesake in the first quarter and said so in his postgame comments. 

“It was very ugly and it all falls on effort, which is not something we normally talk about,” March said. “That’s not part of our culture. That’s something we’ll address and move on from. That’s unacceptable.”  

Mexico City was able to add to the lead in the second quarter, outscoring Memphis 31-28 for a 67-50 halftime advantage. Memphis was able to chip away slightly in the second half, but never led in the entire contest.  

Kennedy Chandler of the Memphis Hustle (left) is watched by Mexico City’s Mason Jones in first quarter action Tuesday night. Chandler’s teammate Kenny Lofton Jr. (6) looks on. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)

The Hustle’s pair of two-way players, Kenny Lofton Jr. and Vince Williams Jr., along with Kennedy Chandler, the former Tennessee star who the Grizzlies assigned to the Hustle earlier in the day, made an impact on the scoresheet in the loss.  Williams led Memphis in scoring with 29 points, while Lofton added 22. Chandler finished with nine.  

“It was good to see Vince (Williams) play well tonight and compete,” March said, adding that Williams had played the previous night with the Grizzlies.  

Memphis also got scoring from Matt Hurt (13) and Sean McDermott (12) off the bench, and starter Dakota Mathias with 10. 

However, there were no answers for Alfonzo McKinnie’s 31 points and former Duke standout Jahill Okafor with 26 more.  Bruno Caboclo (19), Justin Minaya (17) and former Arkansas star Mason Jones (15) also scored in double figures for Mexico City.  McKinnie and Okafor each scored a double-double with 11 rebounds apiece, in addition to their point totals.  

The win moved Mexico City to a 9-5 record and it was the second straight win over the Hustle this season, having claimed a 108-93 victory in Mexico City back on Nov. 10. Memphis took away a 111-101 win at Mexico City Arena on Nov. 9, the second game of the season for the Hustle.  

A season-low 478 saw the contest at the Landers Center, four fewer than the previous low of 482, which saw the team lose to the Texas Legends on Nov. 29.  

The Hustle now play at Birmingham and at Frisco, Texas against the Texas Legends before returning home Tuesday, Dec. 13 to face the Lakeland Magic.  

INTERNATIONAL ATMOSPHERE: Tuesday’s game brought an international flavor to the Landers Center, with the evening started by playing the national anthems of both the United States and Mexico. 

From courtside, one could hear Mexico City coach Ramon Diaz, a native of Spain, shout directions to the floor in both Spanish and English, likely depending on who the recipient of his words were to be. 

Five of Capitanes’ 10 players on the roster are from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, or Mexico. 

Once the Showcase Cup play is finished and the regular season starts, Mexico City returns to the Landers Center Jan. 3 and again on Feb. 9. 

GROWING THE GAME: Mexico City’s inclusion into the NBA G League is the NBA’s effort to grow interest in the NBA brand of basketball across the United States border. Capitanes was added to the league last season but only played through the Showcase Cup and all on the road due to concerns of spreading COVID-19. Mexico City entered the G League not as an new expansion franchise but a team that had played three seasons in Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional before joining the G League last year.  It is not affiliated with any NBA franchise, much like the NBA G League Ignite.

Box score

Bob Bakken

Bob Bakken is the most recognized and most trusted name in DeSoto County news and sports reporting, as readers continue to express their appreciation for his accuracy and fairness in the stories he writes. Bob is also heard on 95.3 The Rebel twice a week with sports updates and high school football play-by-play broadcasts in the fall. A former newspaper editor and writer, his award-winning background also includes television news producing, sports media relations, and radio broadcasting.