The final game of the D-League playoffs first round tips off tonight, the deciding game three of the series between the #2 Rio Grande Valley Vipers and #6 Reno Bighorns, or as I like to call it, "Marcus Doesn't Play Here Anymore."* The game starts at 8:30 Eastern tonight, and you can watch it live on Futurecast.
Each team has won on the road in this series. RGV won the first game 110-94, a disjointed affair that saw Reno center Rod Benson dominate down low. Reno won last night 128- 126, a fast-paced game with an exciting finish that...saw Reno center Rod Benson dominate down low. Yes, there is a theme to this series.
There's a twist, though, as Houston's Mike Harris is expected to be assigned to the Vipers to play in tonight's game.
So with that in mind, there are some keys for tonight for each team after the jump.
Take care of the ball - The Vipers have a total of 18 turnovers over the first two games of this series. The Bighorns, meanwhile, have racked up at least 18 turnovers in each contest. Reno was pretty careless with the ball in the first and fourth quarters last night, but they won anyway. They can't be certain that will happen again, though, and they need to be sure their passes are crisp, well-timed and well-placed - especially since this game is on the wrong end of a back-to-back.
Take Harris out of the game - This seems obvious with him coming down from the NBA and all, but Reno actually has the defenders to make this doable. Doug Thomas and Mo Charlo can combine to keep Harris in check (and Benson if Harris spends time on the block). Their biggest efforts will be needed in keeping Harris off the boards, however, as he automatically becomes RGV's best rebounder. Both Thomas and Charlo struggled a little bit in game two (Charlo jammed his finger blocking a shot and wasn't the same for the rest of the night), but they'll need to step up tonight.
Rio Grande Valley Vipers:
I don't really know what to say here. The Vipers' big men aren't suddenly going to become great rebounders overnight, which is the team's biggest problem in this series. They're not turning the ball over, and after a rough first quarter they actually shot the ball pretty well in game two. The guards are breaking down Reno's defense pretty effectively. So...hope Rod Benson gets in foul trouble, I guess? Hope that Reno coach Jay Humphries plays Yaroslav Korolev 35 minutes for some reason? Sorry folks, I got nothing.
This basically comes down to how much help Mike Harris can give them. If he's playing well, that should help make up for some of their other deficiencies and give them a real scoring option inside. If Reno is able to limit his effectiveness, then their perimeter players may feel even more pressure.
Basically, RGV's played decently in both of these games, so... they should keep it up and force Reno to play poorly. Now that's insightful.
*Both teams had Marcus Hubbard on their roster at some point this season, and both wisely traded him away.