When Keifer Sykes gave the Austin Spurs a 97-95 lead over with 5:15 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 1, it looked as if the Spurs were about to manage another miraculous playoff comeback.
Then the offense went stale and the Los Angeles D-Fenders would shut the door on a potential comeback, winning Game 1 with the final score of 102-97.
Austin had spectacular performances from Brandon Fields and Deshaun Thomas, who both finished with 18 points apiece. Youssou Ndoye finished with 13 points, while Sykes and Demetri McCamey added in 11 points each. Even with five players in double figures and an acceptable 13 turnovers committed by the silver and black, the Spurs still managed to lose the game in stunning fashion, going 0-for-9 from the field in the final five minutes.
So what adjustments do the Spurs need for Game 2? Just like their series versus Rio Grande Valley in the first round, Austin needs to take advantage of the paint versus the D-Fenders.
In four playoff games, the Spurs as a team are shooting a paltry 31 percent from beyond the arch, five percent lower than their regular season average. Take away their 9-of-18 performance versus the Vipers in Game 2, and Austin is shooting a horrid 24 percent from three point range.
Austin’s calling card this season has been pace. Los Angeles loves to play at a high tempo, ranking fifth in pace in the regular season at 101.85 possessions per 48 minutes. Meanwhile, the Spurs played at the Development League’s slowest pace at 96.13 possessions per 48 minutes, and also tied for first in rebounding.
Stopping Vander Blue from asserting his will in the paint is one way for Austin to coax out a win in Game 2, but the Spurs need to dominate the interior on both offense and defense. Blue may have scored 33 points in Game 1, but 16 of this points came at the free throw line on 18 attempts. Also, finding a way to neutralize Justin Harper on the block with Walter Tavares, if he can stay out of foul trouble, would be a huge step forward in winning the rebound battle and controlling the tempo of the game.
Speaking of the Spurs bigs, Ndoye can’t patrol the paint all by his lonesome if Austin is going to win this series. Look for Austin Spurs head coach Ken McDonald to make some kind of adjustment with Cady Lalanne and Tavares going forward, just as he did in the first round. Tavares struggled in Game 1, racking up just six points and six rebounds in 13 minutes, but he also managed five blocks in his limited action. The Spurs would also benefit from Orlando Johnson’s ability to create off the dribble and outside shooting, but he’s been mysteriously absent during this playoff run, appearing in only one game.
When: Sunday, April 16th at 7:30 p.m. CST
Where: Cedar Park Center – Cedar Park, TX
Watch: ESPNU (TV), YouTube (Stream)