Notes from Santa Cruz: Jeremy Tyler has yet another uneven D-League performance

Photo by USA Today Sports.

The Santa Cruz Warriors held on to defeat the Erie BayHawks 96-95 at Kaiser Permanente Arena on Sunday night in front of yet another sellout crowd. Click here for the boxscore and read on below for a few notes from the game.

  • As I was coming over from the East Bay after the Niners game, Mike and I arrived a bit late - about the beginning of the second quarter.

  • The first thing that caught our eye was, naturally, Jeremy Tyler. He sandwiched a nice jumper from about the free throw line in between a missed baby hook a few feet from the basket, a missed jumper from the wing in which he faded to the left a bit, and an over the back foul. At halftime, Tyler had 9 points on just 4-for-11 shooting

  • Santa Cruz made a nice run to close the first half with the help of a few turnovers from Erie and an ill-advised foul that resulted in Santa Cruz free throws near the end of the first half. They had a nice halftime interview with Warriors assistant Casey Hill broadcast on their projection screen above the scoreboard. His assessment of the first half: despite still holding opponents to the lowest opposing field goal percentage in the league, transition defense was a major problem as Erie shot 53.7% from the field.

  • Although he's not here, the big story that people in the crowd and from Santa Cruz are discussing is the play of Chris Johnson in his first game with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Johnson had a career-high 15 points, starting with a massive dunk. The comment from Warriors' PR: "We've seen him do that all the time here." It's hard not to feel good for the guy after putting in the work at the D-League level and showing that he can contribute to the NBA level right away.

  • Leslie being out provided more oportunity for guys like Daniel Nwalele and Cameron Jones. I'm always impressed with Cameron Jones when he gets a chance to get some run. He's a smart player on both ends and does a good job of being in the right position to make/prevent plays even if he's not the type of dominant athlete that might be at the top of a NBA prospect list. In the first half, he had 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting.

  • We were sitting directly behind the bench and Erie's coach Gene Cross was entertaining to listen to. At the end of the first half after Erie made that ill-advised foul, Cross gave the person a glare and yelled something inaudible back to acknowledge he heard him then sort of walked away. The fans agreed to lay off from that point on and get back into him later.

  • Tyler picked up his fourth foul with 5:44 left in the third for basically bear hugging his man on an inbounds play under the basket. As they walked over to set up for the ensuing free throws and then on his way out of the game to the bench, Tyler was complaining to the ref. Certainly nothing that risked him getting T'd up, but an unfortunately familiar scene down here in Santa Cruz.

  • DJ Kennedy was one of the top players at the D-League Showcase and you can see the skill there even if he didn't have a particularly dominant performance. He's a very fluid player and compared to some of the other players out there does an excellent job of finding a spot to get a shot off without wasting a whole lot of dribbles. The Warriors did a much better job of containing him in the third quarter, which helped them head into fourth quarter tied at 75-75.

  • Back to back threes by Darrington Hobson and Dan Nwalele helped the Warriors extend their lead. Hobson has a great skillset - he does a little bit of everything and made a great pass from the point to the corner to set up Hannah for a drive with just over a minute left.

  • One thing that stood out last night about Tyler's games compared to previous games was that he looked much more patient than normal. He had a couple of nice little moves in the second half about five feet from the basket where he established position, felt out his defender, turned and made a jump hook. Then with 3:29 left he travelled trying to make a move to the basket after facing up on his defender.

  • Without guys like Kent Bazemore or Travis Leslie on the court, Stefhon Hannah takes on a lot of offensive responsibility just in terms of being the guy who can break guys down and create something. It remains unclear where he'd fit at the next level, but he's an important piece to the puzzle here in Santa Cruz. Even though he was only 1-for-13 from the field he tallied 11 assists.

  • The game came down to the final possession and after a string of Erie putbacks missed and the buzzer sounded, the crowd erupted as loud as I've heard in the building. It was an awesome end to a dramatic game.

  • After the game, we spoke with Tyler, Santa Cruz coach Nate Bjorkgren, and Santa Cruz assistant Vitaly Potapenko.

  • I asked Potapenko specifically about his work with Tyler and how he felt that he's progressing. As with most of the commentary about Tyler this season, he basically said that he works hard and mentioned that he's a quick learner. He also said that his shooting touch might be the thing that helps him eventually stick in the NBA.

  • Bjorkgren spoke about holding Kennedy to just 1-for-7 shooting in the second half despite the fact that he finishing one assist shy of a triple double. He credited the defense of Hobson as well as their other guards for helping to slow Kennedy down as a scorer.

  • Both Bjorkgren and Tyler mentioned how good it felt to hear about Chris Johnson doing well in his first NBA game of the 2012-13 season after working hard throughout his time in the D-League. Bjorkgren was able to watch at least part of the game while Tyler wasn't due to travel though he heard about the result. Bjorkgren mentioned that one of the most impressive things about Johnson was how he did everything asked of him despite only averaging 25 minutes per game in a crowded post rotation. In a league where everyone is trying to make it to the next level, Bjorkgren noted that all of Johnson's Santa Cruz teammates were nothing but happy for him.

  • Hilton Armstrong did not play last night but will play in tonight's game. The return from injury for Travis Leslie and Edwin Ubiles are still unknown. Jeremy Tyler will be back with the Golden State Warriors for their MLK Day game against the L.A. Clippers.
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