#2 Rio Grande Valley Vipers vs. #3 Austin Toros D-League Semifinals Preview



Game 2 Highlights

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Austin Toros wrap up their semifinal series tonight, with the winner moving on to face the Tulsa 66ers in the finals.  Hopefully this game doesn't get out of hand like last night's did.  Really only the way this one could top it is if the Fan Man showed up.  The game starts at 7:30 pm Central Time, and can be seen live on Futurecast here.  As we have for each and every playoff game (and I do mean every game), I and probably Scott will be live-blogging this game in the comment section.  Join us, won't you?

Game one saw the Toros hold on against a late RGV rally using a five-guard lineup.  Yes, really.  Vipers forward (and this year's D-League MVP) Mike Harris was limited by foul trouble in that game, which helped Austin considerably.  The Vipers tied the series in game two behind a dominant performance from Harris and some early shooting woes for the Toros.

I predicted Rio Grande Valley to win the series, but this should be a fun, close game.  My keys for each team are below the jump:

Rio Grande Valley

  • Get off to a good start - The Vipers have a tendency to start slow, then come on strong in the second half.  This being the deciding game of the series, RGV needs to make (and take) good shots from the get-go and prevent the Toros from running up an insurmountable lead.
  • Keep Curtis Jerrells out of the paint - Jerrells has scored a combined 55 points over the first two games on 56.3 percent shooting.  Jerrells's bread and butter has been using the pick and roll to drive to the basket and either score, get to the free throw line, or both.  Jerrells has shot just 27.3 percent from outside in the post-season, and if the Vipers can turn him into more of a shooter that should disrupt Austin's offense.
  • Play smart - There are a lot of smart players on RGV's roster, but this series has seen some pointless fouls and technicals and a slight uptick in turnovers from their first series against Reno.  The Vipers need to make sure they don't get overexcited at being on the cusp of the finals and play themselves out of the game.  Some of that might end up being out of their control (do you need to read the recap of last night's game again?), but RGV needs to be ruthlessly efficient in how they play tonight.

Austin

  • Rebounding - RGV had a 50-37 rebounding advantage in game two, and while Mike Harris was a big part of that, it also falls on the Toros to improve in that area.  Marcus Williams has been playing small forward (and sometimes power forward), and is a decent rebounder, but he had just four boards in 36 minutes on Monday.  Michael Joiner needs to crash the boards more often, since he's playing center and all.  Cory Underwood can help there if he stays out of foul trouble.  Grabbing more rebounds will help keep the Vipers from running the fast break, which they do very well.
  • Marcus Williams needs to attack - Williams was a bit passive in game two, settling for jumpers that, while not necessarily bad shots, helped feed RGV's rebounding advantage.  Williams needs to focus more on attacking the basket, not just because he can finish or get to the line, but also because he keeps an eye out for open teammates when he does.  Getting into the paint isn't just about helping Williams out, it's about helping everyone out and keeping the offense flowing.
  • Figure out the perimeter defense - Neither Curtis Jerrells nor Alonzo Gee are good defenders, even by D-League standards.  Marcus Williams is fine but not spectactular.  Backup Squeaky Johnson also is fine but can be handled by bigger guards.  There have been some matchups that worked over the course of the series (Williams on the Vipers' Will Conroy, for example), but with Eddie Basden and occasionally Gee on Harris duty, Quin Snyder and his guards will have to figure out how to keep Conroy and Antonio Anderson from getting to the rim as easily as they have.
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