The D-Fenders pulled out a 94-92 win over the 2011 defending champions, ending their season, and a chance of a repeat. In a win or go home situation for the Iowa Energy, the D-Fenders outscored them 22-8 on fastbreak points and forced 23 turnovers. The Los Angeles D-Fenders held on to a two point lead in the final seconds to win the series 2-0.
Coming off their first post-season road win over the Energy, the D-Fenders were eager to close out the series at home. In a game that had 17 lead changes and 13 ties, the D-Fenders received a big boost from guard Elijah Millsap and forward Malcolm Thomas. Thomas put up a team high of 20 points on six of nine shooting, and was eight for eight from the free throw line. Millsap posted up 19 points, six rebounds and two steals in the win.
Thomas’ performance in both post-season games has been impressive. In game one of the series Thomas recorded a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds, which help the D-Fenders take a 1-0 lead in the series. Thomas made it back just in time for the playoffs after receiving a call up to the Houston Rockets.
“It’s great to have him back,” said D-Fenders guard Kareem Rush, “He’s a great low post scorer, he’s a guy who can demand a double team down there and he’s a very big asset to our team.”
Consistent scoring and fierce defense help the D-Fenders stop the Energy from extending the series. Guard Orien Greene put up another strong performance ending with 14 points, six assists and a game-high of five steals. Off the bench guard Mardy Collins put up great numbers tallying up 13 points and five assists.
“Our bigs were awesome, especially Malcolm,” said Millsap, ” Malcolm was tremendous down the stretch. Oriene Green and Mardy Collins, they really stepped up and got into the flow of things, and really just started making big time plays.”
Despite going into the half trailing the Energy 56-51 the D-Fenders made the necessary adjustments at the half. By the end of the third quarter the D-Fenders gained a two point lead. The D-Fenders defense also held the Energy to 29.4 percent shooting from the field, and forced seven turnovers. Out of the 17 lead changes in the game eight of those came in the fourth quarter, still the D-Fenders managed to go up by three points with 56 seconds remaining in the game.
The Energy go home losing the series 2-0, despite having strong performances from guard Curtis Stinson, Mike Efevberha, forward Andrew Drevo and center Ben Strong. Stinson ended the game with 22 points and seven assists, while Efevberha contributed with 19 points and seven rebounds. Drevo finished with 10 points and six assist, as Strong added to that reaching a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Although the D-Fenders managed to pull out the win, going into the second round they have to work on free throws and limiting turnovers. Late in the game the D-Fenders were sent to the line, but failed to capitalize on easy points that could have put the game away early.
“In the next couple of days were really going to put an emphasis on making free throws,” said Rush, “If we would have hit those we probably would have won the game by 10 points, so it’s definitely something we need to focus on [as we] get ready for the next round.”
With this win the D-Fenders will move on to the second round, where they will face the Bakersfield Jam who knocked out the Dakota Wizards from contention on Sunday.
The Jam and the D-Fenders broke even during the regular season winning four games a piece. When asked about their thoughts on playing the Jam most D-Fender players didn’t oppose it since it saved them a long travel to Dakota.
“[I rather play] Bakersfield its closer,” Millsap said with a laugh, “[but also] we got a little rivalry, and they gave us good games all year long, and this would be a really good time to test how far we have come…I feel were playing our best basketball. We’re moving the ball and playing defense like we want to play…we have a lot of trust in what we’re doing right now, and it’s been working for us all season long, so we’re feeling good.”
The D-Fenders have been outstanding at home and on the road. They finished the regular season 38-12, which awarded them home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The D-Fenders look to take advantage of playing in front of their home crowd, but are confident about getting wins on the road.
“In my eyes we compete, we’re competitors and even if it’s an away game were going to make it our home, and that’s just our mindset,” said D-Fenders forward Zach Andrews. “We took a year off last season, but now were back and were back better than ever…I been here all the way through and we continue to get better and [we will] get the championship.”
As the D-Fenders move on into the post-season they will have to do so without forward Jamario Moon. Moon received a call-up to the NBA signing with the Charlotte Bobcats on April 15. In game one of the series versus the Energy, Moon scored a team-high of 25 points, five rebounds and three assists. In that game he shot a remarkable 63 percent from the field, and 72 percent from behind the arc leading L.A. to a 114-103 win. Moon did not play in game two of the series.
Moon is the eighth call-up from the D-Fenders roster this season and the 11th in franchise history. He appeared in 12 regular season games for the D-Fenders starting in 10 of them. He averaged 17.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Moon’s call-up comes one day after the D-Fenders closed out their series against the Energy.
D-Fenders vs Jam Semi-Finals Schedule: Pacific Time
Game 1: L.A @ Bakersfield Thursday April 19 at 7 p.m.
Game 2: Bakersfield @L.A. Saturday April 21 at 6:30p.m.
Game 3: Bakersfield @ L.A. Tuesday April 24 at 10 p.m. *If Necessary