GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – In the first-ever meeting between the two teams, the Windy City Bulls (5-3) held off a furious late rally from the Grand Rapids Drive (4-4) to win 119-118, their fourth straight. The Drive are now 1-3 at home.
The Drive closed a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit down to just two in the closing seconds, but turned the ball over with a chance to tie and five seconds left on the clock. The Bulls escaped by making two free throws and rendering Kevin Murphy’s buzzer-beating three-pointer irrelevant.
Aaron Thomas had 30 points and six rebounds to pace the Bulls, former Drive player and Piston Spencer Dinwiddie had 25 points and six assists, and Wesley Saunders led all bench players with 15 points.
Jordan Crawford returned to the starting lineup and paced the Drive, scoring 30 points and draining four three-pointers. Ray McCallum, currently Prospect Watch’s No. 2 D-League prospect, had another great game with 29 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Murphy added 20 points and eight rebounds, but Chris Anderson was the only other Drive player in double figures with 10.
Both offenses were effective in the early going. The Drive led 39-34 after the end of the first quarter, with both teams tying a season high in first-quarter points. Thomas had 11 in the first quarter for the Bulls, and both teams had seven players score.
It took about seven minutes for the Bulls to get the lead back in the second quarter. They limited the Drive to six points in the first six minutes of the second after their explosive first quarter. The Drive got their offense going after that, but could not stop the Bulls either, so Windy City headed into the half up 65-62. The Drive shot 57 percent in the first half and the Bulls shot 56 percent.
Windy City continued to play well in the third quarter, and got their first ten-point lead with five and a half minutes left in the third. Then they began the fourth quarter on a 7-1 run, to go up by 17.
The lead seemed insurmountable, but the Drive went on a 23-11 run starting midway through the fourth and McCallum’s layup cut the Bulls’ lead to just two with 1:10 remaining. Neither team scored the next minute, but J.J. Avila stole the ball from Zeke Upshaw on the Drive’s final chance to tie.
The Drive’s recent injuries to their centers were a problem throughout the night, and this was exacerbated by starting forwards Chris Anderson and Upshaw both getting in foul trouble. Through the third quarter the Bulls were 29-of-41 in the paint and the Drive were just 16-of-30.
The Bulls shot just 30 percent from deep but still converted 52 percent of their field goals. It was the fifth game of the season the Drive allowed at least 115 points, but this was the second-highest point total Windy City has surrendered on the season.
Windy City has the second game of a back-to-back Saturday night, playing at the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. The Drive host Delaware on Sunday, Dec. 4 for their next game.