Toros lose to Vipers, near playoff elimination

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers converted 21 3-pointers in the 128-115 victory against the Austin Toros.

Rio Grande scored 126 points in the paint, behind the arc and from the free throw line — the most efficient zones on the floor. The Vipers’ top-ranked offense is averaging 112.8 points per 100 possessions this season, all without a stingy defense. Rio Grande compensates on that end by hoisting a high volume of 3-pointers (they attempted 42 against Austin), pushing the pace and, subsequently, the opposition to their limits.

Rio Grande surpassed the 100-point threshold in the third quarter. The Vipers led 102-89 after three quarters.

Austin drew a tie in the final quarter, just about the only victory in a game Rio Grande led from the very beginning. Five Toros finished in double-figures, including Austin Daye, on assignment from the San Antonio Spurs, who finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Caldwell “Squeaky” Johnson chipped in with 20 points off the bench.

Austin is eight games behind the eight-seeded Iowa Energy. The Toros have eight games remaining, and they are teetering on the edge of playoff contention. They need to win each game and hope for help — a lot of help — just to stay alive.

Toros lose first game of double-header

Cedar Park, TX – The Rio Grande Valley Vipers defeated the Austin Toros for the fourth consecutive time this season. The Toros allowed 59 second half points in the 109-92 loss.

Austin is 2-8 in their last 10 games and they sit five games behind the eight seed in the D-League.

The Toros built a 13-point lead lead in the first half, with Flip Murray and Courtney Fells’ accounting for 24 of their 52 points. They held a 52-50 lead at halftime.

Things fell apart in the third quarter. Rio Grande Valley scored 31 points in the frame on 48 percent shooting. The Vipers led 81-71 heading into the fourth quarter.

Fells led a 12-2 scoring run to start the fourth, reducing the Vipers lead to two with eight minutes left. Rio Grande Valley responded with a 24-9 run, scoring 10 of their points at the foul line.

Five Toros scored in double figures. Fells led the Toros in scoring and rebounds with 23 and 11, respectively. Murray scored 22 on 10-23 shooting. Josh Howard scored 13, while Dexter Pittman, two rebounds shy of a double-double, and Charlie Westbrook each scored 10 points. Myck Kabongo finished with eight points and four assists.

The Toros and Vipers complete the home-and-away double-header this tonight at 7PM.

Scouting the Rio Grande Valley Vipers

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

Background

Record: 21-8, first in Central Division
Off. efficiency: 113.4 points per 100 possessions, 1st
Def. efficiency: 110.0, 17th*
Net rating: +3.4, 5th
Pace: 108.8 possessions per game, 2nd

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 53.1, 1st
Turnover pct: 15.9, 3rd
Off. rebound pct: 33.4, 1st
FTA rate: .288, 14th
Opp. effective FG pct: 52.1, 14th
Opp. turnover pct: 15.3, 15th
Def. rebound rate 69.2, 15th
Opp. FTA rate: .309, 7th

The leaders

Points: Troy Daniels, 23.4
Rebounds: James Johnson, 9.1
Assists: Isaiah Canaan, 8.1
Blocks: Johnson, 3.4
Steals: Robert Covington, 2.5

Summary

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are easily the most polarizing team in the D-League — they score the most points per possession, while yielding the most points per possession. In simpler terms, they complement the best offense with the worst defense. It’s worked so far, considering they maintain a three-game lead for the first-seed in the playoffs.

But there is certainly warning signs — namely, their defense getting progressively worse, suggesting they won’t sustain their success. The Vipers were 8-6 in January, and opponents scored 116.1 points per 100 possessions against them, two points more than the 16th-ranked defense.

Where they excel

As long as Rio Grande continues to score points at a blistering pace, second highest in the D-League, they’ll give themselves a punchers chance in most games. While their defense has depreciated each month, the offense has not dropped off in the slightest.

They have three players averaging 20+ points per game, and one, Chris Johnson, is sixth tenths away from reaching the 20 point threshold. Eight players typically finish in double-figures on this team. Rio Grande shoots efficiently, rarely turns the ball over and crashes the offensive glass effectively. Offense certainly isn’t the problem.

Where they struggle

But the defense is a problem, rendering any gains they make on the opposite end essentially mute. The Vipers don’t prioritize defense, instead focusing on piling points in bunches. That’s fine, but they can’t hang their hats on anything — anything — on defense; they don’t create turnovers, which would spur their transition offense, nor do they protect the rim or protect the defensive glass.

Opponents averaged 37.7 attempts in the restricted area in January, converting these shots at a 68.9 percent clip. Winning games simply isn’t sustainable, if they are giving up several high-percentage looks at the rim.

Player to watch

Troy Daniels. Daniels leads the team in points, but he’s an aytpical high-volume shooter. He’s the Stephen Curry of the D-League, perhaps even more extreme — 76 percent of his shots are beyond the arc. Daniels headlines a Rio Grande Valley team hoisting an absurd 45.8 3-pointers per game.

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats

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

Toros stomp 66ers for second time in a week

The Austin Toros gained their second double-digit win, 94-80, over the Tulsa 66ers at the Cedar Park Center last night. It was the third time these teams had faced off against each other all season, and even more interesting in the past week.

The home team jumped out to an early lead after the first quarter, 23-16, despite losing new player Keith Clark to what looked like a wrist injury and was later pronounced a shoulder injury. After logging 2:41 in his first game of the season Clark left for the locker room and returned to the bench later in the game with an ice pack and what could only be described as a make do ace bandage sling. If the injury is capable of keeping Clark on the bench for several games it could be assumed that Clark could be cut from the team to make room for a new player. However, due to NBA training camp starting tomorrow, and the possibility of five Toros players being invited to training camp (more on that in a minute) it’s in the Toros best interest to hold on to Clark.

Tulsa outscored the Toros in the second quarter and had the opportunity to go in to halftime with a two-point lead. A hard foul committed by Ryan Reid (12 points, 12 rebounds) at the buzzer sent Terrance Woodbury to the line. Woodbury closed the gap with the Toros trailing 45-44.

Back from the half the Toros faced another injury. With 9:15 remaining in the third center Luke Zeller suffered a broken nose. His two points weren’t missed as the Toros began to pull away in the third compliments of their strong defense. The team limited Tulsa to 12 points and stretched their lead to double-digits, 67-57.

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D-League Numbers, Names: A Primer

Somewhere around the eighth grade I lost interest in math. I endured it through high school and later college. Numbers bore me. However, numbers matter.

Numbers matter in basketball terms because numbers represent teams and players. With the NBA lockout it would be wise for Spurs fans to get a little more acquainted with the D-League, and the Austin Toros to be specific.  Some numbers that might prove helpful:

160. There are that many players in the D-League all trying to prove they belong with the big boys in the NBA. A veritable collection of the Rocky Balboa’s of the basketball world. The reality is, most will not make it. But some will. Some will push themselves and elevate their game and in an incredible moment in time will get their opportunity with an NBA team and will produce—and stick. “Yo Adrian. I did it!” If you’re a sports fan you have to love a good underdog story. The D-League is filled with them. One hundred and sixty guys all hungry for that shot.

16: There are sixteen D-League teams, nine with single NBA team affiliation. For the uninitiated, here is a breakdown of the D-League teams, and their NBA affiliation: Austin Toros (Spurs); Bakersfield Jam, (Clips, Suns, Raptors) NBA DLeague Canton (Cavs), Dakota Wizards (Warriors), Erie Bayhawks (Knicks), Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Best name ever-Pistons, Pacers, Bucks), Idaho Stampede (Nuggets, Blazers, Jazz), Iowa Energy (Bulls, Hornets, Wizards), Los Angeles D-Fenders (Lakers), Main Redclaws (Celtics, Bobcats, 76’ers), Reno Bighorns (Hawks, Grizzlies, Kings), Rio Grand Valley Vipers (Rockets), Sioux City Skyforce (Heat, T-Wolves, Magic), Springfield Armor (Nets), Texas Legends (Mavericks), Tulsa 66’ers (Thunder).

30: There are thirty NBA teams that have a keen interest in the players of the D-League. These teams are not looking for The Next Big Thing, rather they are looking for a player who is ready to be a viable role player on their team. They also look to the league to give young guns that can’t crack their rotation the playing time they need to develop. Last season alone, twenty-five teams assigned thirty-seven first or second year players to the D-League. Eighteen of those players were first round picks from 2009 or 2010, six were lottery picks. Forty-five percent of players drafted in 2010 played in the D-League during the season. Every NBA team had at least one player on their roster with D-League experience.  The NBA takes the D-League seriously, and Spurs fans should as well.

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On the Road with Michael Joiner: Austin-bound

Austin Toros forward Michael Joiner is a four-year D-League veteran and in his second season with the Toros. He has agreed to write an “On the Road” series for Toros Nation and this is his third post, a recap of the Toros’ recent win over the rival RGV Vipers.

Michael JoinerBy Michael Joiner

Good win? Let’s call it amazing! Why? Cause it was our first road win against the Rio Grande Vipers. Second, this is our rivals so you know we owed them one. Lastly, for guys that were returnees such as Squeaky, both coaches, Taylor and Alex, and myself this is always a fame that we want. For those that don’t know why, just know that we have history! Oh, I almost forgot this was Moses first trip back since losing against them in the championship game last season.

Ok! Enough about them. More about us…we played a good game, not necessarily a complete game but we played better than our opponent last night. Big E aka Eric has given us a huge presence in the paint with his shot blocking and defense. “The Other Guys” is what the guys off the bench call ourselves and they came in a gave a solid blow to our opponent. Beale, Lyons, and Coleman just too quickly name a few made big buckets and played solid defense while giving our starters a breather.

James Anderson set the tone for us along with Squeaky, Cousin, Palmer and Thomas. I have to say it was a collective effort. Now I know, some of you may be asking “What about you Joiner?” Well, I played my part as well. I was a player coach if you want to look at it from my perspective. I understand this league is about growth and opportunity. Also, with having a Spurs player down, our line up and playing time will all be affected. So that’s my contribution. We seem to be turning things in the right direction. Now let’s have “winning” be our reflection especially since we are Toros! (Black & Silver….You know what it is!)

P.U.S.H. Mode…Success is what I am after.

If you have any questions for Michael or would like to comment on his posts, feel free to comment below or email ontheroad@projectspurs.com and we’ll be sure to get your questions/comments to him. Follow Michael on twitter @mjborn2win.

The most interesting 1:25 in D-League basketball

Last night’s upset win over the RGV Vipers at their home court was unfortunately overshadowed by one whistle-happy official. In just one minute and 25 seconds, two coaches and a player were ejected. Watch below and feel free to grab your whistle and join in on the fun.

On the Road with Michael Joiner: RGV

Austin Toros forward Michael Joiner is a four-year D-League veteran and in his second season with the Toros. He has agreed to write an “On the Road” series for Toros Nation and this is his second post, which he wrote before last night’s win against the RGV Vipers.

Michael Joiner

By Michael Joiner

It’s game day against the Rio Grande Vipers. We are on the road playing down in the valley. It was a long and exhausting day of travel for the team yesterday. Bags were lost by the airlines, but we eventually got them later on that night.

How’s the team? Well, I will say that we are good. Today seemed to be different. Why? Just because everyone really had a different pep in their step. The word of the year has been “Swag” and you can see everyone really bonding and really in their own zone. Even though the results we wanted in our last game did not show up as the game came to a close, but we have honestly showed some strides in what we can accomplish this season.

Our team defense has gotten a lot better. Guys seem to start understanding how to play this game now. Honestly, for me it seems like it was a long time ago when I was some of these guys age…lol. But I had some great basketball teachers that helped me to mature and grow quickly in this game. Most of the guys ate out together for lunch at Applebees and now are resting up until we depart for the game at 4:40 p.m.

We started Squeak T.V. back up so you all will have some new footage real soon. Last game, my guy Aubrey Coleman played like we know he can and gave us great energy off the bench. Our newest addition, Eric, was a great defensive presence for us in the paint with some massive blocks. Our team played good overall, but their is still room to improve because we gave that game away. We have yet to put a complete game together, but we are very close to it. So continue to support the Toro Movement…Black & Silver, Black & Silver, Black & Silver, Black & Silver.

If you have any questions for Michael or would like to comment on his posts, feel free to comment below or email ontheroad@projectspurs.com and we’ll be sure to get your questions/comments to him. Follow Michael on twitter @mjborn2win.

Vipers sink their fangs into the Toros

In their first game this season without their NBA D-League All-Star Marcus Cousin, the Austin Toros took on the defending D-League champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers tonight at the Cedar Park Center.

For the first time this season between the two teams the home crowd was not able to witness a victory, as the Vipers won 117-97. Austin falls to 12-18 for the season.

Despite the Vipers bringing an eight-man roster to the Cedar Park Center (Vipers waived forward Stanley Asumnu before the game) the Toros fell behind quickly in the first quarter due to poor shooting. Their five buckets gave them 15 points while the Vipers dominated the first quarter and led by as many as 15 at one point. The team came close to meeting their season low in the quarter (13) which coincidently was against the Vipers last month.

In the second quarter the Toros were able to shrink the Vipers lead. A 15-6 lead sparked by Jermaine Beal’s jumper with 6:00 remaining before the half put the Toros within four at one point.

By the break the Vipers were headed to the locker room with a decent lead, 57-50. Coming off the bench Kevin Palmer added 10 points behind his perfect shooting (4-4). Jeff Adrien and Jerel McNeal put up 25 points for the Vipers in the first half.

By the third quarter the Vipers were practically down the home stretch and en route to adding another “W” to the win column. Seven of the eight Vipers players had recorded double-digit points by the start of the fourth. Beal and Palmer contributed 10 of the Toros 19 points in the quarter from the bench. Former Texas Longhorn Connor Atchley was perfect from long distance in the quarter and helped his team outscore the Toros 35-19. Heading in to the final 12 minutes of the game the Vipers led 92-69.

San Antonio Spurs’ rookie James Anderson, who is on assignment with the Toros, scored 12 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, in 23:21 minutes of play.

It’s apparent how big of a factor Cousin is to this team. Averaging 14.8 ppg and 8.6 rebs in his previous 29 games, Cousin can easily be considered the team leader and play maker out on the hardwood. Fans can only hope Cousin is healthy and able to play during Saturday’s rematch against the Vipers.

Notes:

  • Toros’ Kevin Palmer lead the team with 22 points.
  • New Toro Eric Boateng scored 4 points and grabbed 2 rebounds.
  • Toros shot 38% on 32-84 shooting for the game.

Big 12 Reunion to be Televised Tonight

In a city that bleeds burnt orange and not black or silver, tonight’s Austin Toros-Rio Grande Valley Vipers matchup is sure to bring Texas Longhorn fans out to the Cedar Park Center. Former Longhorn, now Viper, Connor Atchley will be making his first appearance in Austin tonight.

The D-League sophomore was recently traded to the Vipers from the Iowa Energy in exchange for Stanley Robinson. He’s appeared in seven games since late January where he’s averaged 8.7 ppg and 4.3 boards. Why is this important?

Two reasons: First, Atchley is the only name on the Vipers’ roster that will be anywhere near relevant to Toros fans and second, tonight’s matchup will be a rematch of last season’s D-League championship and it will be interesting to see if faithful Longhorn, now Toros, fans will jeer at Atchley.

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