D-Fenders Season Comes to Disappointing End With Loss to Toros

April 29, 2012

Los Angeles -- The Los Angeles D-Fenders record-breaking season came to an unfortunate end Saturday night, with a 122-110 loss to the Austin Toros in the third and deciding game of the D-League Finals.

The loss marked a disappointing end to an otherwise successful year for the D-Fenders, who set the D-League record for the most wins in a season with 38, and whose coach, Eric Musselman, won D-League coach of the year honors.

All that was needed was a win on Saturday night in front of a raucous home crowd at the Toyota Sports Center to provide a fitting end to a perfect season for LA.

Unfortunately for the D-Fenders, the Toros had other plans.

After blowing out LA in Game 2 on Thursday night, Game 3 was shaping up similarly in the early minutes, as the Toros jumped out to a 16-point lead in the first quarter. Led by starting point guard Justin Dentmon, who finished with 30 points on 8 for 16 shooting, the Toros maintained control throughout the game.

The D-Fenders stayed close, however, and after Austin jumped out to a big early lead, LA was in striking distance for the majority of the game. They were only down by six after three quarters, and by the beginning of the fourth, the game was shaping up to be a magical Laker-esque playoff comeback for the D-Fenders.

The Toyota Sports Center crowd was brought to their feet with a thunderous slam dunk by reserve forward Malcolm Thomas, and again later with a three-pointer by Elijah Millsap to bring LA within 1 at 94-93. Millsap emphatically pumped new life into the arena as the Toros called timeout to try to stymie the D-Fenders run.

But the D-Fenders were never able to get over the hump, as the Toros went on an 8-0 run immediately following the timeout, effectively killing the D-Fenders rally and their season.

If there’s any consolation for the D-Fenders, they can take solace in the fact that they weren’t at full strength in the second half.

Arguably their best player, Elijah Millsap, who averaged just over 23 points per game in the playoffs, sprained his right ankle just before halftime, and was noticeably hobbled for the remainder of the game.

Millsap was able to remain somewhat productive in the second half, but primarily as a jump shooter, as his ankle injury limited his explosiveness and restricted him from getting to the basket like he’s been known to do so well. Even with the injury, Elijah, brother of Utah Jazz sensation Paul Millsap, finished with 26 points on 8 of 16 shots.

With Millsap significantly hampered, bench reserve Mardy Collins, a player who has had to deal with his own fair share of injuries for the majority of the 2011-12 season, was instrumental in keeping LA competitive after Millsap went down, finishing with 31 points and six assists in 39 minutes.

“Even before Elijah got hurt, I had my mindset to keep attacking, keep attacking," said Collins. "That was my mentality from the time I checked in.”

A major difference in the game was provided by the Toros' Eric Dawson, who returned in Game 3 after sitting out two games due to a concussion he suffered within the first minute of Game 1. After the D-Fenders outrebounded the Toros in the first two games, the Toros had the rebounding advantage in Game 3. Dawson provided a crucial 21 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes.

However, D-Fenders head coach Eric Musselman felt that what really dictated the outcome of the game was free throws.

While both teams shot a similar percentage from the field and from the three-point line, and were pretty much neck and neck in every category, the only disparity came at the free throw line.

The Toros shot a whopping 43 free-throws, as opposed to the D-Fenders' 31. Musselman received a technical foul for yelling at a referee after a foul call, and was animated in expressing his frustration with the officials for most of the game.

“When the other team shoots 43 free-throws, you’re not going to win.”

By Max Rucker
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

No comments:

Post a Comment

We encourage all intelligent, passionate comments. Please refrain from any ignorant, racist, or offensive rants.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...