The Los Angeles D-Fenders pulled out a close win Saturday night, beating the Idaho Stampede 106-105. Improving to 31-11 on the season, the D-Fenders became the first NBA D-League team to secure a spot in this season’s playoffs. In the win over the Stampede the D-Fenders clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
After having a short four-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the D-Fenders trailed the Stampede for most of the game. Tempers flared early in the third quarter, resulting in D-Fenders guard Orien Greene being served a technical, and ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct. Greene left the game with seven points and three assists. The D-Fenders continued to struggled in the third, shooting 40 percent from the field, and a mere 20 percent from behind the arc.
The D-Fenders entered the fourth trailing the Stampede by 11 points, but the D-Fenders wouldn’t go away. The D-Fenders defense played a big factor in their comeback. The D-Fenders forced nine of the Stampedes 20 turnovers in the final quarter, while containing them to 40 percent shooting.
The team also got a big boost in the fourth quarter from Elijah Millsap, Malcolm Thomas and Jamario Moon. In the fourth alone Millsap scored an impressive 16 points, on four of five shooting from behind the arc. Millsap was named player of the game ending with 22 points, three steals and one block. Thomas made a clutch move with 8.4 seconds remaining in the game by tipping-in a shot, thus securing the D-Fenders victory. Thomas finished off with 19 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. Moon contributed to the win with 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals.
The D-Fenders faced the Stampede without key players Courtney Fortson and Darius Morris who received a call-up to the NBA. Fortson struck a deal, signing with the Houston Rockets, while Morris was recalled to the Los Angeles Lakers once again following the Derek Fisher trade. Fortson becomes the sixth player from the D-Fenders to receive a call-up this season, and the ninth in D-Fenders history.
Although the D-Fenders were without Fortson and Morris, the D-Fenders received help from Mardy Collins and Kareem Rush. Collins racked up 14 points and seven assists, while Rush added another 10 points and three rebounds in only his third game with the D-Fenders.
For the Stampede, Marcus Banks led all scorers with 25 points, six assists and three steals. Tony Bobbitt added 22 points, while Jordan Brady tallied 19 points and three steals. Off the bench Antoine Walker dropped 11 points, six assists, and six rebounds in the loss.
The D-Fenders end their three-game home stretch, and head on a road riding on a four game winning streak. The D-Fenders are on their way to break their 2007-08 franchise record of winning 32 games. The D-Fenders hit the road facing off against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for a back-to-back set of games, before returning home to take on the Reno Big Horns.