Reno Bighorns 128, Rio Grande Valley Vipers 126 (Box Score)
The Reno Bighorns held off a furious fourth quarter rally by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers last night to force this playoff series to game three. Reno shot 63 percent from the floor, had a 42-28 rebounding advantage and led by as many as 17. But before we get into talking about the players, I want to address something that came up during the broadcast.
I like Eric Musselman as a D-League announcer. He's far and away the best color guy that Versus has used, he's knowledgeable both about the league and about pretty much every player that he has to talk about, and his comments on coaching strategy are usually on point. Having said all that as a preface, you can probably guess that I'm now going to complain about him.
Musselman repeatedly got on Rod Benson's case for not getting back on defense, and for letting the Vipers get some easy transition baskets in the paint. There may have been one or two instances where it was warranted. But Musselman kept hammering away at this point, going even so far as to intimate that such effort, or lack thereof, is detrimental to D-League players trying to get into the NBA. The problem was that Musselman kept making this point even when he was wrong.
There was one play in particular when Benson had fallen to the floor after an RGV player rolled into his legs, and Musselman started in on him rather than the three Bighorns players who were back on defense, but just watched the Vipers walk into the paint for a layup. The complaint continued even as the replay showed just what I described. I'm not writing this just because it's Rod Benson, who also is good with RU; Musselman kept harping and harping on his point, and in so doing was ignoring other things that were going on in the game, and it got really annoying.
Stars/Non-stars after the jump.
- Even granting that he maybe could've hustled a little more getting back on one or two plays, Rod Benson had another great game. He had 29 points on 13 shots, and 18 rebounds. It helped that he only picked up two fouls, and only turned it over twice. RGV's big men got a little more physical in trying to deny him position and strip the ball, but he fought through it and they couldn't stop him late in the game.
- There were a few things Desmon Farmer did that I didn't love, like turning it over four times in the first quarter and causing not one but two shot clock violations by dribbling too much. Farmer was on fire early on, though, and finished with 27 points on 11-16 shooting. Most, if not all, of his turnovers came from trying to do too much and force an extra pass, but that's better than lazy passing (and there were some of those, as you'll see below). He also had a ridiculous temper tantrum.
- WIll Conroy picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter, but when he came back in the fourth he almost took the game over completely. 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Conroy, who almost always looked in control and didn't try to force anything. (Scott's Note: Watching the replay, Conroy took a charge on the Vipers last defensive possession. It wasn't called.)
- Yes! A fourth star! Craig Winder played very well off the bench, with 23 points on 12 shots. He also had five rebounds, five assists and four steals, and defended Farmer pretty well (he just didn't do it very often).
- Yes! A fifth star! D.J. Strawberry was Reno's top bench performer, outplaying the guy who starts over him (again, see below). Strawberry once again did an excellent job of getting to the rim on his way to scoring 21 points in 29 minutes to go along with three blocks.
- A sixth star! Why not? Antonio Anderson's performance warrants mention, as he had 28 points on 20 shots, seven assists and five rebounds. Anderson had some trouble finishing at the rim at times, but he played some very good defense late in the game to ratchet up the pressure on the Bighorns.
- If you couldn't tell with the multiple hints I dropped, I really wasn't crazy about Will Blalock's game. His number's weren't awful (12 points on six shots, eight assists and six rebounds), but his passing was either lazy or just poor generally, and he played some pretty bad perimeter defense as well.
- Yaroslav Korolev finished with four points on 1-5 shooting and three rebounds in 21 and a half minutes. It's not even his shooting that puts him here, it's that he could've had at least twice that many rebounds if he actually tried. Instead, he just waits for the ball to fall into his hands, and several times an RGV player would just take it away from him with little effort.
- He was a star in game one, but tonight Doug Thomas was a non-star. He started out playing decently enough, but finished with five points on 2-7 shooting. Three of those missed shots were blocked layups. Thomas was bad enough that he sat for the entire fourth quarter, and while I normally might say that his defense could've helped stop RGV's rally, he hadn't really shown that he deserved to be out there with the rest of his play.