I'm still trying to figure out how Dakota won this game. I'm also still learning how to type with a blister on my hand from shoveling snow for two hours this afternoon. The snow plows came by to clean the streets, which left a nice little 3 foot by 3 foot lane of snow in front of the neighborhood driveways I've been taking care of to supplement my $0 of monthly income.
I was there early - I watched Dwayne Jones be the first player on the court, putting in work with assistant coach Wendell Alexis on his free-throw shooting for 45 minutes, wearing a backward Yankee fitted. I watched DeMarcus Nelson come out and dribble, wearing headphones at least as big as his head, just kind of chilling. I watched Ryan Bright come out and think, wow, this guy is not 6'6" and definitely should not be starting at power forward. I also watched Blake Ahearn be the only player at the arena for Dakota for a good hour, doing interviews and shooting jump shots - the usual.
Anyway, on to the game stuff. Dakota really played well, like a team. Coming off of five straight losses, it was essentially a must win - losing six straight, no matter how tough the schedule is, is not conducive toany sort of playoff run.
Austin on the other hand, didn't play like a team, despite having many players that should probably be an NBA team. In those situations, it can go to either extreme - either the team will mesh as they're all capable players and have the drive to win OR they can decide to showcase themselves individually, lose to a worse team, and not look good because of it. Austin, last night, chose option B.
If you're looking for play-by-play, check Lou Babiarz' Bismarck Tribune story - he's obviously the greatest writer in the world, and I'm not just saying that because I need the ocassional freelance opportunities he provides me.
Otherwise, continue on for my detailed coverage, broken down by player! Yippee!
David Bell - David Bell is probably the best catch and shoot player in the D-League, and I think I'd be able to find a decent number of coaches to agree with me. He might also be the streakiest scorer in the D-League (scoring for the month of March - 15, 6, 2, 18, 9, 3, 8, 6, 12, 22), but that has as much to do with his backup status and the players in front of him being D-League All-Stars in Mo Baker and Blake Ahearn. Regardless, when he's on, you can't stop him (unless you make him dribble, which he's been working on quite a bit pre-game lately with assistant coach Kevin Rice). Last night, D-Bell came off the bench for 35 minutes after Dakota was forced to play three guards after Richard Hendrix picked up three fouls in the first three minutes. He really stepped up, scoring 22 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. As a bonus, he also dished five assists and turned the ball over just once.
DeMarcus Nelson - Nelson came off the bench, but he was one of the top few players on the court the whole game, playing 35 minutes. His jumper was ugly, for sure, but not all that ineffective. When he missed, it usually caromed off the bottom of the rim or bounced over the backboard, but still. He was matched up with Mo Baker when I paid attention to that sort of thing, and Baker shot 3-for-11, but I don't really remember too many stellar defensive plays out of Nelson. In fact, there's only one play I really remember, a horrendously missed dunk. It was on the other end of the court, but he burned his defender, got a free shot to the hoop and got Darko'd. Good times for all, as there's nothing more a Dakota crowd likes to do more than cheer for a missed dunk (except hate opposing coaches and Marat Kogut). Nelson finished with 20 points but on 16 shots and the rest of his box score was pretty empty.
Romel Beck - I don't know how many people have watched Romel in action, but he's not far from the league. As he's getting more comfortable with the Wizards, he's really shown he can take over a game. Last night, he was matched up with Malik Hairston and he pretty much played as good of defense as is expected on an NBA player. Beck's isolation is astounding. If he looked to pass a little rather than kind of becoming a black hole on offense, he'd be going somewhere. Beck had 17 points and (didn't realize this) five assists.
Malik Hairston - Just to be clear, he had the best in-game dunk I've ever seen at the Civic Center. On an offensive rebound, he jumped from one side of the lane and threw it down HARD on the other side, having to reach back a good bit to be able to throw it down. Being 6'5", you don't expect that. He was kind of subdued otherwise in this game, mostly due to being locked down when isolating and Austin deferring to run any sort of offense. Still, he finished with 17 points, 10 boards and five assists on just 12 shots, but he also turned the ball over five times. Regardless, he's an NBA player.
Richard Hendrix - Hendrix has some fouling issues. Still being a young dude, it makes sense, but picking up three fouls in the first three minutes of the game can only partly be attributed to a Marat Kogut led officiating crew. He shows a lot of potential when he's on the court, but his defensive awareness needs to really improve - don't try to get a charge call when Marat Kogut is in Bismarck (also see: the night before, where two BLATANT charges were not called), especially when you already picked up two fouls and there are over 45 minutes left in the game. What this led to was just 20 minutes played, when Austin boasted one of the best big men in the league in Dwayne Jones coupled with Dakota's weak big man corp (only three players 6'8" or taller). Hendrix finished with 14 points and seven boards.
Marcus Williams - Williams is the longest, lankiest player in the D-League. He's a matchup problem waiting to happen. Unfortunately, he doesn't take advantage of this. Blake Ahearn was guarding him (and vice versa) the majority of the game, but Williams settled for jumper's rather than using his size to post up in the post. Regardless, it still surprises me he hasn't made the league yet this season. He's just got so much potential. This seemed to be down game for him, yet he still had 29 points, six boards, and four assists while showing good range, shooting 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Duane Ticknor - Two things you can count on from Coach Ticknor - he's going to eat Tootsie Rolls and he's going to be the sweatiest guy on the court. Big congrats go to Coach Ticknor, who picked up his 250th victory last night. If there's a minor league coaching Mt. Rushmore of the past 15 years, he's going up there.
Anna Miller - Just had to get a bit of a shoutout to the only Wizards staffer I haven't mention on the blog. She's easily the most flamboyantly dressed in the D-League. The things she wears, when there's a foot and a half of snow on the ground, astound me. Suspenders, heels, and all. Still love her.