With the Delaware Blue Coat’s loss on Monday, the door had been opened for the then 7-1 Oklahoma City Blue to jump to first place in the standings. Those aspirations have been put to a standstill as the Blue fell just shy of the victory, being stung by the Greensboro Swarm 120-118. Oklahoma City still has their hopes high dropping to 3rd in the standings at 7-2, but now their status lays in the hands of the Bayhawks and Blue Coats. For the Swarm, this victory was a necessity in stirring up any playoff hopes, currently sitting at 4-5.
This game began a lot more tightly contested than most Blue games, with four ties and two lead changes in the first six minutes of run. Oklahoma City found themselves on the receiving end of a 12-6 Swarm run to bolster their lead as high as 10, clamming to a 35-24 Greensboro lead through one. Oklahoma City wrapped around Brown in the first period, as he scored 8 points and 6 rebounds through one, however a silent 0-of-7 clinic from downtown set them back soundly.
The Blue got things going with a 5-0 run to begin the second, hitting their first triple via a Ty Jerome conversion, but instinctively fell back inside. Oklahoma City rhythm in the paint looked to be a golden ticket,, but Swarm center Nick Richards had none of it — swatting four shots in the first five minutes of the quarter, all coming inside. Despite the lockdown on the interior, Greensboro allowed 31 Blue attempts and 9 makes in the first six minutes, ousting their 17 attempts that only provided 6 buckets. Everything opened up for the Blue’s offense as Richards checked out, orchestrating a 19-2 push to snag a six point lead, ultimately ending with a 68-65 advantage. Complete role reversal occurred in the second period for the Blue, lifting off on 11-of-15 shooting in the final six minutes while burying 7-of-10 triples in the half closer.
Oklahoma City kept active down low en route to an early 11 point lead off an 11-3 run with their lone triple coming from a Jerome corner bank-shot. The Blue kept right at, extending their run to 22-5 in the first seven minutes of play running their lead up to 20. Greensboro made things interesting hitting two consecutive threes to hinder the lead — but six straight Moses Brown points, including a putback dunk off his own free throw, mounted the Blue up 100-86 entering the fourth. Greensboro was rattled, shooting a lowly 9-of-37 (24%) from the field while Oklahoma City poured in 17-of-29 attempts (59%,) ran through 24 points in the paint.
With Moses Brown sipping on Gatorade, Greensboro rallied around 2k legend Ray McCallum to start the fourth, ironing a 7-2 stretch in the first two minutes cutting the deficit to single digits. The Swarm’s contention for the game took a serious turn as they climbed their lead to 18-8 making the game just 108-104 with six minutes remaining. Moses Brown snuck back into the rotation with four to go and it became evident. The Swarm coupled around Brown resulting in wide open three pointers, one of which came off a Pokusevski no-look pass. Greensboro stayed pesky, cutting the Blue lead to just 2 with one minute to go, and off a swatted Pokusevski finger-roll — they got their first shot at reclaiming the lead. Nick Richards shanked an open top of the key three, but of an offensive rebound Grant Riller cashed in the reload triple to put them ahead with 28 seconds to go. The Blue ran a Jerome-Brown pick-and-roll of the timeout, netting a Jerome missed runner however Nick Richards’ rolled out of bounds with the basketball, giving a second chance. Moses Brown received the ball on the second effort — coughing up possession on his way up. Oklahoma City had another shot with 0.5 after Greensboro split their free throws but a botched Pokusevski-to-Brown alley-oop flew just out of reach.
Greensboro may have given the Blue bigs their toughest contest of the year, levied by center Nick Richards. The 7-footer totaled a double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds, but his game-high 5 blocks set the tone. Phenomenal guard play in Grant Riller and Kobi Simmons blossomed in the later periods, boosting their totals to 20 and 15 points respectively. Xavier Sneed produced 16 points and 3 steals as the starting small-forward whilst guards Ray McCallum and Nate Darling torched 14 and 15 points off the bench.
The Oklahoma City Blue ran a balanced offense throughout the thick of the game, resulting in 11 made threes, 11 made free throws (worth 1,2, or 3 points), and 58 points in the paint. Moses Brown remained the Blue’s top dog scoring 26 points to accompany his 17 rebounds. Brown had been the Swarm’s center of attention the entirety of the day, and even with his toughest match of the year in Nick Richards — he still shot 11-of-19. Richards forced Brown into contributing more off of pick-and-rolls opposed to his usual backdowns, but their was almost zero tick in production. Omer Yurtseven commanded the second unit with 17 points and 10 rebounds across 20 minutes. Luckily for Yurtseven, his capabilities were not strangled by Richards, as they hardly shared time together, resulting in 7-of-10 shooting all inside. Guards Ty Jerome and Rob Edwards lifted the Blue up with 14 points a piece, lighting the floor up from deep. All four of Jerome’s made baskets came from outside, making the most out of Greensboro sagging off. Rob Edwards was a focal point the Swarm were… swarming. The team’s second-round selection got into the second level of the defense the most he has all season while still going 2-of-4 on triples. Antonius Cleveland strung together a solid game with 13 points (4-of-8 FG), 6 rebounds, and 3 assists straying away on threes for move bang-bang plays inside. Aleksej Pokusevski settled down from his two-game terror, snagging just 6 points on 2-of-12 shooting, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. Though Poku isn’t going be on Sportscenter for this contest, he did still have flashes. The 19-year-old experimented a lot more inside making tap passes and no looks with relative ease, with the only pushback being 2 turnovers and a couple of rinky-dink layups that got launched into the stands.
The Oklahoma City Blue (7-2) will have Thursday off before entering a battle against the Austin Spurs (6-3) that will likely involve playoff implications.