NBA D-League Playoffs: Biggest Game in D-League History Tonight
Tonight the Rio Grande Valley Vipers host the Austin Toros in what may be the biggest game in NBA D-League history.
This isn't saying much, since the league's been around only since 2001. But it should be noted just exactly what will be going down later this evening in Hidalgo, TX, and why you should watch it.
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers, as we told you, had the most successful season in NBA D-League history. They had the most call-ups while also developing their assigned players, won the Western Conference, had the MVP in Mike Harris and the Coach of the Year in Chris Finch. That's not bad for a season's work. And they are hosting a series-deciding Game 3 of the semifinals in RGV where they had the biggest crowd in D-League history this year. Expectations are rightfully high.
Austin? On the verge of second Finals trip in three years. They feature two assigned players that came up through the Toros system, including D-League Rookie of the Year, Alonzo Gee. Quin Snyder, the coach that won't die. Eddie Basden, Squeaky Johnson, guys that believe in the system, just like their NBA parent club, the Spurs. And who just keep winning. Just like the Spurs. With apologies to the dearly departed Iowa Energy, who truly had a remarkable season, these two have been the best two teams in the league since call-ups decimated Iowa. And now they're meeting in Game 3, win or go home.
D-League Playoffs tonight on Futurecast at 8:30 EST. Let's talk a little bit about matchups, and what the coaches think will happen tonight.
IN THE LEFT CORNER:
The Austin Toros (32-18): Quin Snyder's Toros came away with a wild win in Game 1 only to find themselves on the losing end of a beatdown in Game 2. All the things they did right in Game 1 evaporated, as they lost on the boards with their bigs unable to secure rebounds, not to mention the face RVG's Mike Harris did things which I'm pretty sure are illegal in 10 states to the Toros' defense. In addition, Marcus Williams, who Snyder describes as "vital to (their) pick and roll sets" had a bad game.
Williams is too talented to have multiple bad games in a row and is a good bet to step up in a closing game. Alonzo Gee has never been in a situation like this in a deciding game in a series, but he'll be a huge factor in tonight's game. It's going to be Williams and Gee who will need to be better on the boards than they were in Game 2. Snyder describes Gee as a "unique" and versatile player, and says "he learns really quickly. He's bought into the system." He'll need to buy in tonight, because the Toros need contributions from both Williams and Gee to go along with Curtis Jerrells.
But what the D-League MVP is worried about is the Toros' bench. Harris told FanHouse Wednesday that Squeaky Johnson was huge for the Toros in Game 1, and he's the focus of the Vipers.
IN THE RIGHT CORNER:
Rio Grande Valley Vipers (34-16) Mike Harris is their star (42 points in Game 2), but Will Conroy is one of the better pick-and-roll point guards in the game. Head coach Chris Finch says that Conroy's stepped up his game in the playoffs, bringing quickness and explosion to the team. They'll need it tonight with the Toros' guards. The Vipers' three-headed monster features Harris, Conroy, and former Memphis star Antonio Anderson, who had a call-up earlier this season to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Finch says that Anderson is the fiercest competitor on the team, and that his versatility is a huge part of their success. No matter what the scenario, Anderson has the ability to go out and contribute. Need to shore up the rebounds? He can get it done. Need someone to handle the ball at the wing to work it to Mike Harris? There's an Anderson for that. Need points? There's definitely an Anderson for that. Watching Anderson against the Toros' guards will be a huge thing to watch tonight.
THE FINAL BELL:
Both teams have considerable star power, and both teams are led by two of the best coaches in the league this season. The little things are what will probably determine this game. For the Toros, it's shoring up the rebounds, and they'll need a big game from Eddie Basden to do that. For the Vipers, Harris told FanHouse that missed free throws have killed the team throughout the playoffs, and that's something they've worked on. Controlling the fouls is going to be key. Game 1 was a Toros' win largely because of Mike Harris' foul trouble. And Game 2 the Toros gave up too many points on free throws. It's going to be a tight game, and it's those little things that should make the difference.
Tune in to Futurecast tonight to see who's headed to the Finals.