Thomas shines in Game 1, but Vipers rally to defeat Spurs in overtime

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EDINBURG – With just over four minutes left in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s contest, the Austin Spurs held a 100-75 lead over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

End the recap there, right? Spurs dominate Game 1 of the D-League Western Conference Semifinals and can advance with a win on Thursday night.

Except none of that happened.

Austin was led by forward Deshaun Thomas, who scored a game-high 35 points, while adding in five rebounds and four assists in 40 minutes. Keifer Sykes also made the most of his playoff debut with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists. Brandon Fields chipped in 17 points off the bench, with the Spurs having six players score in double figures.

For the Vipers, Will Cummings had a team-high 32 points, while stuffing the stat sheet with two rebounds, five assists and four steals. Denzel Livingston dropped in 27 points, including the game-tying three pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime. Joshua Smith and Jarvis Threatt had 26 and 25 points, respectively.

Both teams got off to a slightly sluggish start, but Austin found themselves down 10 points midway through the first quarter. The Spurs would rally behind Brandon Fields’ 10 first quarter points, but still found themselves down 35-32 at the end of the first. The Spurs continued to put on one of their more dominant offensive performances of the season by scoring 40 points in the second quarter, giving themselves a 72-66 halftime lead.

The third quarter would start with a 28-9 run by the silver and black, giving Austin what seemed to be an insurmountable 25 point lead with just 16 minutes left to play. But the Vipers would answer with a quick 9-0 run to put themselves in position for a comeback, down 104-87 to end the third quarter.

Despite their fourth quarter struggles on offense, the Spurs maintained a double-digit lead with just three minutes remaining in the game. Then Cummings and Smith would help bring the Vipers to within three points, when Livingston would channel his inner Kris Jenkins to send the game to overtime tied at 130. Overtime would end up going in favor of the Vipers, as the Spurs failed to score a field goal in the three minute extra period, to fall 136-133.

The good news for head coach Ken McDonald’s squad is that homecourt advantage is now in Austin’s favor. The bad news is the Spurs need to win on Thursday night to take full advantage of homecourt, otherwise vacation will be starting a little early. And the task to bring down Rio Grande Valley is not easy, as the Spurs are now 1-6 versus the Vipers this season.

Game 2 versus the Rio Grande Valley Vipers will take place on Thursday evening, with tipoff at 7:30 p.m. from the Cedar Park Center.

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