Mike Harris and the Vipers are moving their way to the top of the West standings as a shaggy-haired Jon L looks on (via www.nba.com) (That's not really me, but it's in the ballpark)
It would be nice if this post generated as many comments as my last one, but I doubt that will happen. Prove me wrong, kids! Prove me wrong.
RGV Vipers 135, Albuquerque Thunderbirds 112
A few days ago, Rockets GM Daryl Morey jokingly posted "Break up the Vipers!" on Twitter after the team won its fourth straight. Well now it's five straight. It helps that they were playing a team on the latter half of a back to back, but the Vipers also have really picked up the three-point shooting after a rough first few games. They made 62.5 percent of their outside shots last night, led by a 7-8 Garrett Temple and a 4-6 Jonathan Wallace. It also helps that one of their strengths (rebounding) mirrors one of Albuquerque's weaknesses. Joey Dorsey (oh, and it also helps to have an NBA player on assignment on your roster) finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Mike Harris had nine boards along with a game-high 32 points. Antonio Anderson had 12 assists, Wallace had 11 and I'll stop there, because I could list a lot more positive numbers for RGV, because it was that kind of game. Well, not completely; what's up with hitting less than half your free throws?
I don't think the Thunderbirds are a bad team per se, but I can't help feeling that Carlos Powell is "stuck" on this roster. Of course, he should be in the NBA rather than another D-League team, but that's a separate conversation. 17 points and a team-high seven rebounds for Powell, as well as a team-high two offensive boards. That's right, no one for Albuquerque grabbed more than two offensive boards. Keith McLeod has been playing fairly well the last few games, and he had 23 points on 16 shots and seven assists in this one. Kevin Pittsnogle got pushed to the bench, but other than three-pointers (2-7) he shot the ball well, making five of his seven attempts inside the arc and all five free throws, finishing with 21 points on 14 shots. Just five rebounds in 32 minutes, however. The Thunderbirds realllllly need to fix that.
Tulsa 66ers 90, Springfield Armor 74
Mustafa Shakur shot the ball terribly, 3-13, but he handed out 11 assists, picked up three steals and didn't turn the ball over once. The 66ers used some nice three-point shooting from Cecil Brown (3-5, on the way to 23 points) and to be honest, they didn't really need to shoot the ball particularly well (just under 40 percent) based on how the Armor played. Hey, here's a fun exercise: can you guess the player based on last night's stats? Here's a hint, they play the same position for Tulsa.
Can you guess? Player 1 is DeVon Hardin. Player 2 is Latavious Williams. This is one game, true, but it generally holds for both of their seasons so far: Williams is producing about as much as Hardin but with fewer fouls and turnovers, and in half the playing time. I understand why Williams may not be getting much time; he's still adjusting to playing against pros, the Thunder don't have much incentive to develop him, and for all I know he's not doing as well in practice. But based on how he's played in games so far, I maintain that Williams should be getting some of Hardin's minutes, particularly now that Keith Clark is no longer on the team. Neither player is an offensive juggernaut, but Williams can help out as much or more on the boards, and so far in the D-League hasn't shown a propensity for turning the ball over or committing dumb fouls; he's committed just two fouls so far this season and committed five turnovers over the course of 53 minutes, and three of those turnovers are from just one game - he has zero or one in the other four games he's played. Tulsa doesn't even have to start Williams, but put him out there - all evidence points to him being able to play.
For Springfield, Mo Almond can't get to Massachusetts fast enough. 1-10 shooting for Adam Harrington, 3-11 for Tre Whitted, Maurice Maxwell went 4-13, ugh. Kentrell Gransberry was able to stay on the court (a little bit) longer and grabbed 12 rebounds along with scoring seven points. Major Wingate had 18 points and 11 boards and JamesOn Curry had 15 points and eight rebounds. Nice boardwork for the Armor, but along the way they kind of forgot to pass the ball. Gransberry and Maxwell tied for a team-high four assists, and you know what? Morris Almond isn't going to help that problem. They're going to need a lot more former NBA players. But hey, at least pro basketball is back in Springfield.