Game 2 of the D-League semifinals series that's actually interesting (did I say that out loud?) tips off at 8 pm Eastern tonight, and can be seen live on Futurecast. The Austin Toros won the first game 122-120 after holding off a late Vipers rally. The series now moves down to the Rio Grande Valley, however, where the Vipers were 21-4 during the regular season and 1-1 in the first round of the playoffs.
The Toros won game 1 by just a slim margin despite RGV's NBA-assignee Mike Harris playing just 16 minutes with foul trouble. Austin got a combined 79 points from its trio of standout guards, Alonzo Gee, Curtis Jerrells and Marcus Williams. Those three also combined for 21 rebounds, and Williams and Jerrells had 13 assists between them. Backup point guard Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson added 21 points and the Toros played with 6'6" guard/forward Eddie Basden at center for stretches of that game, making them an extremely perimeter-oriented team at the moment.
In addition to Harris, who is his team's primary rebounder, Rio Grande Valley also relies heavily on its guards. Will Conroy and Antonio Anderson both have gotten call-ups this season, while Jonathan Wallace has averaged 17.5 points per game in the playoffs while shooting 55.6 percent from outside. Several of the Vipers' "big men" like Julian Sensley and Ernest Scott rely on midrange and outside shooting rather than working down low.
Austin needs to win just one more game to advance to the D-League finals, but I'm not certain that will happen. While Reno was able to win one in RGV, that game saw their center Rod Benson demolish the Vipers inside while guards Desmon Farmer and D.J. Strawberry did work on the perimeter - and Reno still needed a game-winner with five seconds left to take it. The Toros have the stellar guard play but not the strong big man, which is why I think Harris will give them problems for the next two games and help the Vipers win the series.
Prediction: Rio Grande Valley 112, Austin 107, with Harris collecting something in the neighborhood of 25 points and 15 rebounds.