Capitals’ slide continues

Jahlin Smith goes up and under for the layup against the Vancouver Volcanoes on Sunday, May, 8, at the Salem Armory Auditorium. (JOSHUA MANES/Keizertimes)

The Salem Capitals struggles in the second half of the season continued over the weekend, capped off by a loss to the Vancouver Volcanoes.

The 119-92 loss was the Capitals’ third in a row, and was the second of 20+ point losses on consecutive days. They shot a combined 40% from the field and less than 24% from three over the weekend. 

“They’re not contested, we’re just missing shots,” head coach Brian Stevens said. “We’ve been missing shots for eight games now, this isn’t new. This is our fourth weekend in a row missing open shots.”

In those eight games, the Capitals are 3-5. 

The Capitals did a lot of the little things that should help a team win on Sunday. They won the turnover battle 23-17, but the Volcanoes dominated from the field and on the boards. 

Salem was outrebounded by 20. Kyle Johnson Jr. averages 12.5, third in the TBL, but was held to nine on Sunday.

But nothing is more glaring than the shooting difference. Vancouver shot 42% from three, while Salem struggled at 21%, an all too familiar story during the second half of the season. 

Stevens hopes the averages work themselves out after they shot well in the first half of the season.

And he may have reason to think so as the Capitals slowly get healthy. 

Stevens said they currently have five guys dealing with injuries, including both shooters. But he doesn’t use it as an excuse and knows it’s just part of the game. And he said guys are starting to look better.

“[Jason] Smarr shot well today, first time he’s looked like that in two weeks, shows his knee is getting better,” Stevens said. “[Montigo Alford’s] able to drive again, he’s had an ankle problem so that’s working out now.”

Smarr had a team-high 21 points, shooting 7-for-15 from the field and 3-for-9 from three. He went 0-for-4 from beyond the arc on Saturday against the Socal Moguls. 

Alford scored 19 points, going 3-for-5 on 3-pointers, and 50% from the field.

They’ll need to heal up soon. Salem has now dropped five of the last six games and fallen into third place in the West. 

“I have never looked at where we are, even when we were 8-0,” Stevens said. “Like I told the guys, it could be fool’s gold, we have to dial in and keep getting better. And as a coach it’s my responsibility to keep them dialed in and getting better and obviously I haven’t done that.”

The Capitals are six games ahead of the fourth place San Diego Sharks. But, with new playoff formatting, all six teams make the postseason regardless. 

With six games left in the regular season, Stevens said the priority is getting healthy and right for the playoffs.

“We know we secured our spot, but at this point we just have to get healthy and dialed in at practice and start to work on our little adjustments and keep shooting those open shots and I trust these guys to start making them,” Stevens said.