D-Fenders Fall Short of D-League Championship in Loss to Toros

The Austin Toros claimed victory over the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the D-League Finals, beating them 122-110 Saturday night. In a Game 3, win-or-go-home situation, the Toros’ balanced scoring and clutch free-throw shooting sealed their first ever NBA 2012 Development League Championship, presented by BBVA.

Reigning D-League Most Valuable Player Justin Dentmon scored a team high 30 points to go along with five assists, four rebounds and three steals. While forward Eric Dawson, the 2012 NBA D-League Impact Player of the Year, scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Six players for the Toros, including all five starters, ended in double figures. In the win, forward Julian Wright ended with 19 points and eight rebounds, to go along with guard Brad Wanamaker’s 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.

“We expected to win every game,” said Toros head coach Brad Jones.  “We beat one heck of an L.A. D-Fenders team and we did it as a group so I’m really really excited for our guys.”

The Toros grabbed an early lead in the first quarter and never looked back, leading by as many as 16 points. The Toros overcame a game one loss to the D-Fenders and won two straight on the road by double figures. In their final win, they were sent to the free throw line 43 times making 36 of those shots.

For the D-Fenders this was a tough loss to swallow after having such high expectations for the post-season.

“We still accomplished some great things, but it’s a tough loss no matter how you look at it,” said D-Fenders guard Elijah Millsap.

In the loss, D-Fenders guard Mardy Collins led all scorers with 31 points, six assists and five rebounds off the bench. Forward Malcolm Thomas posted up 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Millsap finished the game with 26 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Millsap went down late in the second quarter and had to be carried off the court. Upon further review by the D-Fenders, trainers diagnosed him with a right sprained ankle. Despite that, Millsap returned to the floor after the half. Millsap went on to hit a 3-pointer, which put the D-Fenders within one, but the Toros continued to pull away.

“It was frustrating,” said Millsap, “I couldn’t do what I do best get to the rim, get to the free throw line and explode like I wanted to.”

Despite losing the championship the D-Fenders accomplished a lot this season. They finished the regular season with the best record in D-League and franchise history. The D-Fenders also reached the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-2008 season, and reached the finals for the first time in franchise history.

Head Coach Eric Musselman was named Coach of the Year, as he had eight players receive NBA call-ups, including the 2012 NBA D-League All-Star MVP Gerald Green, who was signed for the rest of the season by the New Jersey Nets. Although it was a tough loss to accept for the D-Fenders, they have a lot of young talent on their team and a lot to look forward to next season.

Game 1 – Los Angeles 109, Austin 101, OT
Game 2 – Austin 113, Los Angeles 94
Game 3 – Austin 122, Los Angeles 110
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