Toros score season-high in win against Iowa

The Austin Toros scored a season-high 131 points in their 33-point victory against the Iowa Energy.

Through three quarters, Austin led by 43 points. They shot 56.8 percent from the field, along with 10 3-pointers. Austin exceeded 30 points in three consecutive quarters.

Iowa scored 29 points in the final frame, cutting the final margin to 33 points.

Six Toros reached double-digits, and the entire roster scored at least six points in the win. Flip Murray’s 20 points led the team. Jazwyn Cowan (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Dexter Pittman (17 points, 11 rebounds) recorded a pair of double-doubles. Austin outscored Iowa by 35 points in Courtney Fells’ 24 minutes.

Prior to last night, Austin had lost 10 of their last 13 games. The Toros, last in the Central Division, sit seven games behind the eighth-seeded Santa Cruz Warriors.

Scouting the Bakersfield Jam

Tip: 7:30 p.m., Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX
Streaming: YouTube

Background

Record: 13-23, fifth in East Division
Off. efficiency: 102.9 points per 100 possessions, 12th
Def. efficiency: 105.8, 10th
Net rating: -2.9, 15th
Pace: 104.1 possessions per game, 5th

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 51.6, 5th
Turnover pct: 21.0, 17th*
Off. rebound pct: 32.6, 2nd
FTA rate: .347, 4th
Opp. effective FG pct: 50.9, 9th
Opp. turnover pct: 15.7, 13th
Def. rebound rate 73.2, 4th
Opp. FTA rate: .297, 5th

The leaders

Points: Terrel Harris, 17.3
Rebounds: Ike Diogu, 8.6
Assists: Jerel McNeal, 5.0
Blocks: Damion James, 1.1
Steals: McNeal, 2.5

Summary

Bakersfield is 2-8 in their last 10 games, and they have allowed 109 points per 100 possessions in this span, equivalent to the Texas Legends’ 16th-ranked defense. But, oddly enough, Bakersfield has improved two spots in defensive efficiency, limiting opponents to 26.2 attempts per game in the restricted area, the second-lowest mark in this span. The Jam have been decimated from the perimeter though; the opposition is averaging 30.7 3-pointers per game — seven from the corners, the second juiciest spot on the floor — in the last 10 games, a disparaging amount enough to make up for any gains in the paint.

The Jam have the third lowest winning percentage in the D-League, but they are not a complete black hole akin to the Erie Blackhawks and Delaware 87ers. They have some things going for them, namely their rebounding proficiency (tops in the D-League) and shooting percentage. Their net rating (-2.9) is 15th, in line with their current record, but they are much closer to the 23-14 Fort Wayne Mad Ants than the 11-30 Delaware 87ers, in terms of net rating.

Where they excel

Rebounding. Individually, they do not have an elite rebounder. Collectively, Bakersfield is a handful on both ends of the floor. The Jam corral 32.6 percent of their own misses, the second-highest percentage in the league, and 73.2 percent of their opponents misses, good for fourth.

Where they struggle

Taking care of the ball. Bakersfield mitigates the extra possessions they create on the offensive glass — and, subsequently, limits the opponents possessions on the defensive glass — with turnovers. They have turned the ball over on 21 percent of their possessions, the worst rate in the D-League. Opponents score 23.4 points (per 100 possessions) off turnovers, also the worst rate in the D-League. It’s a problem big enough to hurt a defense that otherwise fares well in most statistical categories.

Player to watch

Ike Diogu. He has plenty of NBA experience, and he registered 13 points and 22 rebounds against Texas in his last outing. The Toros are the third-worst rebounding team, in terms of percentage. Diogu could have a field day, especially against a team bereft of frontcourt players.

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats

* There are only 17 teams in the D-League.

D-League players on “draft list” can be acquired by affliate

Beginning with the 2014-15 D-League season, NBA D-League players on a NBA teams’s “draft list” can be directly acquired by the affiliate of the NBA team that holds his draft rights, the D-League announced.

The rule allows D-League players to forgo the D-League draft and waiver wire, while giving them the opportunity to immediately play for the D-League affiliate at any point of the season. If they join the affiliate during the season, the team has 24 hours to claim or renounce his draft rights.

The old rule only protected a few players, specifically the ones cut from a NBA team’s training camp, and even so, the NBA team could not own their draft rights to protect them. The new rule safeguards the affiliate, and perhaps incentives NBA teams to utilize their D-League team effectively.

“More easily enabling an NBA D-League player on an NBA team’s ‘draft list’ to join that team’s NBA D-League affiliate is a very important step in the continued evolution of our development system,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “As more and more NBA teams are investing in their own exclusive NBA D-League affiliate, this rule change will lead to improved development opportunities that will benefit our players and the league as a whole.”

The NBA plans on adding D-League teams in the future, ideally expanding it to 30 teams, and giving each NBA team an individual affiliate. Until then, the D-League will not be a “true” minor league system, but they are making inroads every year.

Perhaps in the near future, a superstar kid will seriously consider entering the D-League and forgoing a traditional college basketball path.

Scouting the Maine Red Claws

Tip: 3:00 p.m., Portland Expo Building, Portland, ME
Streaming: YouTube, CBS Sports Network

Background

Record: 15-21, fourth in East Division
Off. efficiency: 99.9 points per 100 possessions, 16th
Def. efficiency: 101.0, 3rd
Net rating: -1.1, 11th
Pace: 101.8 possessions per game, 10th

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 49.4, 14th
Turnover pct: 18.6, 14th
Off. rebound pct: 28.0, 9th
FTA rate: .337, 5th
Opp. effective FG pct: 48.2, 1st
Opp. turnover pct: 16.3, 11th
Def. rebound rate 71.0, 12th
Opp. FTA rate: .314, 10th

The leaders

Points: Frank Gaines, 20.1
Rebounds: Chris Wright, 7.6
Assists: Abdul Gaddy, 4.4
Blocks: Ty Walker, 3.5
Steals: Chris Babb, 1.2

Summary

The Maine Red Claws are 3-7 in their last 10 games, dropping to third in the East Division and 5.5 games behind the eight-seeded Los Angeles D-Fenders. The D-League’s third stingiest defense, allowing 101 points per 100 possessions this year, has allowed 106.5 in this stretch.

A deeper look at the schedule reveals a startling truth: Maine, a below .500 team prior to Feb. 1, was never an especially good team to begin with. The Red Claws played five playoff teams (three against Canton, two against Reno) and another against a team on the cusp of playoff contention, the Idaho Stampede. Perhaps Maine’s defense isn’t good enough to clamp down on the best teams in the D-League.

Where they excel

Maine’s defense gets by while ranking in the bottom half of turnover percentage, defensive rebounding and free throw rate, particularly because they limit the best shots on the floor — shots at the rim and the restricted area. Maine is first in effective field goal percentage, the most important factor of the “Four Factors”, and they allow the fewest 3-point attempts in the D-League.

Where they struggle

Maine’s 16th-ranked offense is rough around the edges, but it isn’t completely terrible. The Red Claws take a lot of 3-pointers, which in itself is a good starting point if you want to build an efficient offense. The problem lies in their ball security or lack thereof; the Red Claws turn the ball over on 18.6 percent of their possessions, the fourth-highest percentage in the D-League. Turnovers inhibit any well-meaning offense, especially one that doesn’t do many other things well.

Player to watch

Ty Walker. He’s a 6-foot-11 center blocking 3.5 shots per game. Maine’s defense is 4.3 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the floor.

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats

Toros acquire Ben Strong

image

The Austin Toros acquired center Ben Strong, who will be available tonight against the Springfield Armor. Strong will wear the No. 23.

Strong, a 6-11 center, has appeared in 114 D-League games. He’s averaged 6.8 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes per game over three seasons. Strong averaged 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in his recent stop with the Delaware 87ers.

Strong, the NCAA’s Division III Player of the Year in 2006-07, averaged 25.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game with Guilford College.

The Toros, with Josh Howard on the inactive list, have nine active players, including Strong.

Austin begins a three-game road trip tonight against the Armor. Live streaming of every Toros game is available on YouTube.

Scouting the Springfield Armor

539px-Springfield_Armor_logo.svg

Tip: 6:00 p.m., MassMutual Center, Springfield, MA
Streaming: YouTube

Background

Record: 13-21, fourth in East Division
Off. efficiency: 103.2 points per 100 possessions, 10th
Def. efficiency: 107.4, 14th
Net rating: -4.1, 15th
Pace: 98.3 possessions per game, 16th

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 50.2, 12th
Turnover pct: 16.5, 8th
Off. rebound pct: 27.9, 10th
FTA rate: .315, 9th
Opp. effective FG pct: 52.1, 14th
Opp. turnover pct: 15.6, 13th
Def. rebound rate 72.4, 7th
Opp. FTA rate: .291, 3rd

The leaders

Points: Darius Johnson-Odom, 23.5
Rebounds: Willie Reed, 8.4
Assists: Johnson-Odom, 5.4
Blocks: Reed, 1.6
Steals: Larry Anderson, 1.9

Summary

Prior to the February, the Springfield Armor and Delaware 87ers were vying for D-League un-supremacy — both had seven wins, and ranked in the bottom half in offensive and defensive efficiency. The tides have turned in February, favoring Springfield.

Springfield is 6-4 in February, while Delaware is 4-4, impressive given their inability to defend. There’s a caveat: Springfield is 0-3 against current playoff teams and 6-1 against non-playoff teams. Another caveat: Seven of their 10 games have resulted in a “clutch” situation and they’ve been crushed by 15.7 points (per 100 possessions) in the 23 minutes … and they’ve won four of the seven games. Wonky stuff. Not to take away from their best stretch of the season, but Springfield still looks very much like the doormat they were in November, December and January.

Where they excel

Mid-range shooting. Analytics has devalued mid-range shots — they are just worth two points, but they are converted less often than shots in the paint and, while they are closer than 3-pointers, their return on investment is much lower — but there is some value in forcing the defense to, well, defend the mid-range area. It opens up other more efficient shots on the floor. Springfield doesn’t generate the more efficient shots very often, ranking in the bottom five in restricted area, corner 3-pointers and above-the-break 3-pointers, but alas. At least they convert mid-range shots at a 41.3 percent clip, the highest percentage in the D-League.

Where they struggle

Protecting the rim. Opponents average 33.6 shots in the restricted area against Springfield and, once they arrive at the deadliest spot on the floor, they convert on 62.9 percent. Springfield allows 51 points (per 100 possessions) in the paint, the third-highest rate in the D-League. The rest of their defense isn’t particularly good either, but protecting the rim is perhaps their most glaring weakness. But, hey, at least they don’t foul very often? I guess?

Player to watch

Darius Johnson-Odom. He’s second on the D-League’s prospect rankings, behind Los Angeles’ Manny Harris, and he leads the team in points and assists. Springfield’s offense is 8.1 points (per 100 possessions) better when he’s on the floor.

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats

Toros late season slide by the numbers

The Austin Toros are 14-20 overall, and have slipped to last in the Central Division. They have 16 games remaining to make up a 5.5 game deficit.

Here’s their recent slide, by the numbers:

1– player called up to the NBA in February
3– wins in February
3– wins against projected playoff teams
3.7– corner 3-pointers per game in February
4– teams with lower winning percentages
5– active players averaging double-figures
5.5– games behind the eight-seeded Sioux Falls Skyforce
6– consecutive games with 100+ points
9– games remaining against current playoff teams
11– wins against non-playoff teams
14– losses since Jan. 1
16– games remaining
16.5–second chance points allowed (per 100 possessions), second worst
20.4– Courtney Fells’ scoring average in February
20.6– net rating in 36 “clutch” minutes
29.8%– opponents FG% from the corner
32.8%– 3-point percentage in February, fourth-worst in the D-League
63.2%– FG% in the restricted area, down 1.2 points from their average
102.1– offensive rating without Nando De Colo on the floor
110.0– points allowed (per 100 possessions) in February, fifth-worst in the D-League
120.6– offensive rating with De Colo on the floor

Warriors defeat Toros for third time this season

The Santa Cruz Warriors scored 74 points in the first half in the 123-103 victory against the Austin Toros.

The Warriors closed the first quarter on a 22-5 run in the last eight minutes, finishing with 41 points and a 25-point lead entering the second quarter. They tacked on 32 in the second, stretching the lead to 30 points.

Austin scored 60 in the second half, outscoring the Warriors in consecutive quarters, but they could not mitigate the Warriors’ first half damage.

Santa Cruz is 3-0 against Austin this season, outscoring the Toros by 53 points in the three contests (17.8 per game). Santa Cruz, the eighth ranked offense in the D-League, is averaging 122.1 points per 100 possessions against the Toros — 10 points better than the Rio Grande Valley Vipers’ top-ranked offense (112.9).

Six Warriors registered at least 15 points, led by Seth Curry’s 21 points. Joe Alexander and Cameron Jones accounted for 37 of the Warriors’ 52 bench points.

Courtney Fells scored a season-high 32 points on 13-of-24 shooting. Fells is averaging 20.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.3 3-pointers, 2.1 assists and 45.8 percent shooting in February. Four of the nine active Toros finished in double-figures.

Austin is 14-20 overall and 5-10 in their last 15 games; the Toros have been outscored by 4.9 points per 100 possessions in this span and their defense has dipped to 11th.

The Toros are 5.5 games behind the eight-seeded Sioux Falls Skyforce with 16 games remaining. Their next trek is a back-to-back on the road against the Springfield Armor.

Toros’ Pittman gets call up from Hawks

Apparently Atlanta Hawks coaches Mike Budenholzer and Taylor Jenkins, and GM Danny Ferry still set their D-League sights on Austin as the Hawks called up Dexter Pittman and signed him to a 10-day contract yesterday.

The Toros acquired Pittman earlier this season, and he played in 17 games with the Toro,s averaging 9.5 points, six rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 17.5 minutes.

Pittman should be a quick learner in Atlanta, having played in the same system in Austin that Budenholzer utilizes in Atlants.

Pittman was likely signed for some added frontcourt depth to make up for the loss of Al Horford and the recent injuries of Pero Antic, Gustavo Ayon and Paul Millsap.

Pittman was available for last night’s win against the Knicks, but did not play.

With Millsap day-to-day and Ayon likely soon to return, it’s a safe bet that Pittman could be back in Austin or the D-League once his contract expires. While the Hawks freed Pittman’s roster spot by waiving Antawn Jamison, Pittman maxes out the Hawks roster at 15 and Budenholzer and Co. may want the flexibility an open roster spot gives them in the stretch run of the season.

The loss of Pittman leaves a big hole in the frontcourt for the Toros as evidenced when the Toros used a four guard starting lineup today with Luke Zeller starting at center. Aside from Zeller, the Toros do not have a single activeplayer over 6-8.

Murray scores 36 in loss to Skyforce

Cedar Park, TX – After winning their last two contests, the Austin Toros dropped to 13-19 after the 116-104 loss to the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

“We really started with such a huge deficit,” Toros head coach Ken McDonald said. “We were down I think 25-6 in the first quarter. You can’t dig that kind of hole against a good team that executes and they know how to play. Squeaky (Johnson) and some other guys really stepped up in the fourth and gave us a chance. We had our chances but its how we started the game that really did it for us.”

The Skyforce took the lead early in the first half and never looked back, extending their lead to 30 points in the second quarter. Flip Murray led the charge for the Toros as they cut Sioux Falls’ lead to under 20 points, 68-49.

Sioux Falls extended their lead to 25 in the third but Murray’s 3-pointer put the Toros within 20, 76-56, with 7:30 left in the third quarter. The Toros trailed, 93-72, heading into the final frame.

Sioux Falls forward Henry Walker’s three-second violation resulted in a technical free throw — Carldell “Squeaky” Johnson made the free throw throw and knocked down a 3-pointer, scoring four points in 14 seconds. Austin scored the first 13 points of the fourth quarter, cutting Sioux Falls’ lead to 93-84 with 10 minutes left to play.

The comeback was short lived.

Sioux Falls responded with a 14-2 run to claim a double digit lead, 107-86, with 5:16 left. Murray scored eight points in the last two minutes, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit. Murray finished with a season-high 36 points.

“I was just trying to get us back into the game,” Murray said. “We started out real bad. We were in a 25-6 hole to start the game. They had us fighting and trying to claw our back since the first quarter. I was trying to be aggressive, trying to get a spark back in my team and we cut it down to nine but unfortunately we came up a little short.

The Toros will travel to South Dakota to play the second leg of a two-game series against the Skyforce. Tip-off is at 7:00pm this Friday, February 23.