Going into Game 2, versus the Austin Toros, the Los Angeles D-Fenders looked to ride a perfect 6-0 post-season record, and claim the 2012 NBA Development League championship trophy.
Unfortunately, after the D-Fenders gave the Toros their first post-season home loss, the Toros returned the favor beating the D-Fenders 113-94 Thursday night.
In a win or go home situation for the Toros, they fought to stay in contention, forcing a Game 3. Coming off a thrilling 109-101 overtime road win, the D-Fenders were in a position to close out the series, but turnovers, rebounding, poor free throw shooting and foul trouble kept them from doing that.
“I felt we didn’t get back soon enough to get back on defense…[and] when your mind is worried about the calls the refs are going to make for the other team, that’s when you get out of your mental,” said forward Zach Andrews, “But there really isn’t an excuse for me, we just got outplayed.”
The Toros were sent to the line for a total of 49 free throw attempts, making 40 of them. Guards Elijah Millsap and Kareem Rush both fouled out the game, while three other players struggled with foul trouble. The D-Fenders also struggled with free throw shooting, making just 57.9 percent, which equated to only making 22 out of 38. To make matters worse, the D-Fenders turned the ball over 24 times, which turned into 25 points for the Toros. The D-Fenders were also out rebounded in the game 21 to 13.
“Most discouraging thing is them taking 49 free throws, take 49 free throws it’s hard to beat a team,” said head coach Eric Musselman. “You can’t turn the ball over in a championship game 24 times and then shoot 57 percent from the foul line. We’ve been a terrible foul shooting team all year long, and it showed again tonight…We lacked energy, we lacked enthusiasm and Austin took it to us.”
“It’s tough,” said Millsap, “We have to make sure we play individual defense like we know how to even when we’re not getting the calls.”
Forward Malcolm Thomas led all D-Fenders scorers, ending the game with 18 points and 14 rebounds, his second double-double of the Finals. Guard Orien Greene finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Millsap posted up 14 points and five rebounds.
As for the Toros, despite being without their leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Eric Dawson, the Toros had five players end in double figures. Forward Julian Wright and guard Justin Dentmon both had huge games and led all scorers. Wright finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Dentmon added another 26 points and five assists. Guard Flip Murray added 16 points to go with Brad Wanamaker’s 15 points, five rebounds and four steals.
At the beginning of the game the Toros got off to a quick start and never looked back. When asked, some D-Fenders players believed it was the lack of energy and urgency.
“Once again we started off sluggish [and] we had to fight back the whole game,” said Millsap. “We came out nonchalant and not enough urgency or urge to get the job done…[Toros] came out and showed us that they want the championship, that they not ready to go home…[Saturday] it’s the last game of the season and it’s our house we have to protect home court.”
The Toros win marks the D-Fenders first loss in the playoffs, and only their fifth home loss of the season. Game 3 is a win or go home situation for both teams, whose outcome will determine who the 2012 NBA D-League champions will be. Game 3 is scheduled for this Saturday, April 28th, and tip-off is at 6:30 at the Toyota Center.