The Santa Cruz Warriors completed the first home stand in the city’s history with a New Year’s Day win and a 4-0 record at Kaiser Permanente Arena.
Led by Kent Bazemore and Jeremy Tyler, two players who have been assigned to Santa Cruz by the Golden State Warriors multiple times this season, the Warriors defeated the visiting Sioux Falls Skyforce 109-93 in NBA Development League action Tuesday, Jan. 1.
“Any time you play winning basketball it is good,” Bazemore said after the game. “I think that’s one thing that sets us apart on this team is playing together.”
Five Warriors scored in double figures, led by Bazemore with 23 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Tyler had 18 points and four rebounds, and guard Travis Leslie recorded 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“There are a lot of guys in this league trying to get their call-up (to the NBA), so they tend to get a little selfish and guys get frustrated — it breaks up the team chemistry — but for the most part we played well,” Bazemore said. “We had 26 assists tonight, and that shows that we were all here for one purpose, and that’s to win.”
The Santa Cruz Warriors, a minor-league team owned by the Golden State Warriors, moved to Santa Cruz in 2012 from Bismarck, N.D.
The team leads the NBDL with a 9-2 record, including five straight victories through the holidays.
“I thought we shot the ball well when we were getting good shots,” said head coach Nate Bjorkgren, who noted that the team had 13 turnovers in the first half. “We took care of (the ball) a little better in the second half. When the guys share the ball and make that extra pass, they make everybody look better.”
The team shot 56.7 percent from the field and finished with 20 turnovers, while forcing the Skyforce into 21.
Sioux Falls was led by Dexter Pittman, a Miami Heat assignee, who tallied a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Just before halftime, the Warriors’ Travis Leslie hammered a right-handed jam over Pittman, eliciting “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd, as the Warriors went into the break with a 56-38 advantage.
Late in the fourth quarter, Leslie had another highlight-reel dunk on a backdoor alley-oop from point guard Stefhon Hannah.
It was Bazemore, however, who iced the game for the Warriors. After blocking a jump shot, Bazemore continued to play defense and forced a shot clock violation with 3 minutes, 50 seconds minutes left. The next Skyforce possession, Bazemore stole an entry pass, and passed ahead for a 3-pointer by Hannah to make the score 103-89.
“Tonight I really focused in on getting stops,” Bazemore said. “That’s been my mentality. I have been working on my offensive game a lot and I would also like to showcase that, that I can play offense also, but my calling be defense and that’s what they really want to see.”
Notes: Kaiser Permanent Arena was at capacity with 2,505 fans in attendance, the fourth consecutive sellout to start the season.
For information about the Santa Cruz Warriors: www.santacruzbasketball.com.
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