On Saturday night, the Capital City Go-Go faced the Erie BayHawks. The last time the Go-Go played at home, they looked like a well-oiled machine. Tonight there were some early growing pains but, fortunately for the Go-Go, they didn’t last. Coach Ryan Richman has the tough job of integrating a lot of pieces on the fly. It became readily apparent in the second half that he is doing that job very well.
Gary Payton II, who was accustomed to having to carry a heavy scoring load in his previous G League stint, forced the issue a lot in the first quarter. He went 2-for-7 and had two bad turnovers. The team’s leading scorer, Jalen Jones, was 0-for-3 and looked to be acclimating to coming off the bench.
The whole team looked out of sync on defense as well. Help defense is something you would expect a team to struggle with when you’re putting guys together for the first time. With that in mind, it was no surprise to see the Go-Go end the first quarter with only a slim lead, 32-28.
The second quarter got off to a much better start for the Go-Go. The ball moved a lot more and guys seemed to find a rhythm with each other. They all seemed to make a conscious effort to get others involved and to make the extra pass when possible.
Opening things up
The Go-Go held a ten-point lead for most of the second quarter but a late defensive lapse allowed Erie to close the gap. At halftime, the Go-Go were leading 61-55 and were outrebounding the BayHawks 31-20. They also forced 13 turnovers while only committing 8 of their own.
Everyone on the team who played scored except for Noah Allen. Jerian Grant lead the team with 12, Payton II had 9, Admiral Schofield 8, Anzejs Pasecniks 8, Garrison Mathews 8, Jalen Hudson 6, Jalen Jones 6, and Johnathan Williams had 4.
To start the second half, Schofield hit a three-pointer and Payton II had an aggressive drive to bring the lead back up to 11. The Go-Go’s defense also appeared to be much crisper. You could almost see the players figuring out how to play off each other in real-time.
More defensive pressure led to another run-out for Payton II who dunked it with authority. That type of play helped the Go-Go’s lead balloon to 19. With under nine minutes left in the third quarter, the Go-Go were up 73-55 and the BayHawks were in serious need of a timeout.
The Go-Go kept the pressure up after the timeout, however. They had four offensive rebounds on one possession and Mathews made the extra pass to Williams for a big dunk. The basketball gods rewarded Mathews’ unselfishness, as he hit on another four-point play the next trip down the court. That brought the Go-Go lead to 27. Mathews has had more four-point plays this season than you typically see from an entire team, let alone one player.
Looking like G League Juggernauts
Things really got away from the BayHawks late in the third quarter as they could not stop anything the Go-Go did. Capital City scored 43 points in the third quarter alone. The scoring was evenly distributed too, as seven players were double-digit scorers by the end of the quarter. The Go-Go went into the fourth quarter up 104-72. Typically, coach Richman would have put in his reserves and throttled back but even those guys looked to be in a different league tonight.
The fourth quarter was really more of the same. Even with the Go-Go taking their foot off the gas toward the end, they still ended up winning 133-106. Grant, Schofield, Williams, Mathews, Payton II, Hudson, Jones, and Pasecniks all scored between 11 and 17 points.
When this team is firing on all cylinders, they are extremely fun to watch. There may not be a more talented roster from top-to-bottom in the entire G League. The eight players who scored in double figures could all contribute on an NBA roster right now. The job that Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard and Go-Go General Manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu have done cannot be understated. This team has become a perfect model for how an NBA team should make use of their G League affiliate.
The Go-Go are now 16-17 on the season. They are 13-5 at home, where more of their top players are available to them, and 3-12 on the road. On nights like tonight, when they have everyone at their disposal, they are easily one of the most potent teams in the G League.
Their next game is on Tuesday, February 11, against the BayHawks in Erie. Their next home game is Thursday, February 13, against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.