Deshaun Thomas’ hot-hand ignites Austin to victory

Steve Helwick

Every instant the ball was in his hands, the 5,569 fans in attendance at the Cedar Park Center couldn’t help but watch in amazement. Deshaun Thomas lit up the scoreboard in the second quarter, demonstrating the extraordinary ceiling of his offensive ability.

Thomas, a versatile small forward, scored 25 points en route to an Austin Spurs 115-108 victory over the Los Angeles D-Fenders. Seventeen of them were tallied in the second quarter on perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 shooting from the free throw line.

“When you get in a zone like that, it’s hard to be contained,” Thomas said of his hot streak. “I just try to be me, do what I can do to help the team out scoring-wise and even on the defensive end.”

Before and after Thomas caught fire, the Spurs struggled. Los Angeles stormed out of the gate to a 15-4 lead, following early lapses on both sides of the ball by Austin. After giving up 19 points in the first half of the opening quarter, head coach Ken McDonald called a crucial timeout to alarm his squad.

“We couldn’t make a shot and Ryan Gomes is a heck of a player,” McDonald said of Los Angeles’ 31-point scorer. “To get down, it’s tough. But one thing our guys did tonight is they grinded it out. We just slowly got back into the game possession-by-possession with stops.”

The tide turned during the second and third quarters. Austin went on a 15-4 run to outscore Los Angeles 65-41 over the 24 minute period. Vander Blue, the D-Fenders’ star player who ranks second in the D-League in scoring  with 26.7 points per game, was limited to eight points on 33 percent shooting. Three technical fouls were called on Los Angeles, and Austin triumphed at their plethora of expenses.

The D-Fenders, who have already reserved a spot in the playoffs, fought back through the frustration. They opened the fourth quarter with a bombardment of three three-pointers, and slowly chiseled a seventeen-point Austin lead down to one. But after a scoreless second half, their hero returned.

“I was still focused whenever he called my name,” said Thomas, who returned late in the fourth after resting in the second half.

Thomas reminded Los Angeles of his offensive capabilities by draining a trey from the corner and a midrange two to put a closure on the game. He finished shooting 10-of-14 and has assumed the role as a leader of the team.

“The guys feed off of him,” McDonald said. “He gets you baskets when you need a basket. He’s terrific from midrange and in the post. There are a lot of things he brings to the table.”

Thomas and the Spurs will play their final game of the regular season Saturday night against the Texas Legends before beginning their quest for their first D-League title since 2012.