Austin Spurs hold on to lead, season in Game 2 victory

Steve Helwick

With their season on the line, the Austin Spurs learned a valuable lesson — no lead is safe. After blowing a 25-point second half lead in Game 1 at Rio Grande Valley, the Spurs would have to maintain their lead to maintain their season.

But preserving the lead in front of the home crowd was hardly an issue. The Austin Spurs never trailed the Rio Grande Valley Vipers after an early 12-10 deficit during a 116-91 victory in Game 2 of the NBA D-League Playoffs.

“RGV’s the type of team that a 25-point lead is not enough,” Spurs coach Ken McDonald said. “We talked about [Game 1] when we were up 20 points in the fourth. You have to limit the runs. That’s the biggest thing.”

In the 25-point victory, the Spurs had one minor scare in the middle of the third quarter when an 18-point halftime lead was shredded to six. The response was different in Game 2. Austin proceeded to squash any chance of a Vipers comeback by scoring on 23 points on 10 consecutive possessions to close out the quarter.

“Coming into it we were focused,” Spurs point guard Keifer Sykes said. “Last game we knew we were up 25 and made some mistakes. We knew those key mistakes were what changed the game. Our guys slept on it for two days and everybody wanted to do one or two things better, and we did that.”

The Spurs capitalized on a variety of areas to secure the victory. They connected from beyond the arc, sinking 9-of-18 three-pointers. The teamwork was on full display as Austin assisted on 26 of 47 field goals. Also, Austin pushed the pace to outscore Rio Grande Valley 17-4 in fast break points and had six players post double-digit values in the points column.

Deshaun Thomas entered the game leading the NBA D-League in playoff points, and he continued strong offensively with a 23-point and nine-assist outing. Edy Tavares shot an efficient 9-of-10 and used his extraordinary frame to dominate the post. Sykes, 5-foot-11 with a 45-inch vertical, scored 17 points and created important momentum off of several fast break dunks.

“We feed off it a lot,” Sykes said. “It’s about doing the little things that build up to it: getting the stop, getting the rebound, and pushing the ball to be able to get on the break.”

The Spurs are riding their momentum into Game 3, a win-or-go-home scenario for both teams, which will be played at the Cedar Park Center on Saturday at noon. Rio Grande Valley will add Montrezl Harrell, who is averaging 24.3 points, 9.3 rebounds per game, a dominant offensive weapon returning from suspension. He totaled 34 points in his last game against Austin on Jan. 25.

“He hurt us in the last game,” McDonald said. “We’re going to have to focus at multiple positions on Saturday to advance. The beauty of it is we get to play against a really good team that’s even stronger with the addition of Harrell.”