Rio Grande Valley Vipers 124, Tulsa 66ers 107 (Box Score)
I hate to do this (okay, maybe hate is a bit too strong), but before I get to the Monstars/Non-stars of the game, I have a complaint. Specifically, I can't believe this game was only shown on tape delay on Versus. This certainly isn't the first Versus game that's aired several hours after it actually ended, in fact that was the norm during the regular season. Although, I think we've all learned quite a bit about bull-riding this year, so that's a plus. There have been some live televised games during the playoffs, though, which is what you want for the playoffs. You'd think the league would want that for the Finals, but apparently nothing doing.
I understand that Versus signed their deal with the NHL before their D-League deal, and that it's currently the playoffs for hockey as well, but come on. If the game can't be shown live on TV, there must be some way for people to follow what happened in real time some other way. The options for tonight's game were to: a.) watch a box score update without any images or video, and only guess as to what was happening, or b.) wait seven hours and go on a self-imposed media blackout until then. I couldn't visit the D-League website at any point this evening because I didn't want to know the outcome before I watched the game. Twitter also was out, because the league, teams and even some broadcasters have been doing a good job of using that platform to interact with fans, meaning I'd be getting updates there.
This is pretty much the opposite direction that most sports leagues are moving in these days. It's obviously too late to fix for this season, but for next year may I humbly request that any game not shown live on television be presented live in some other format. I'm sure the league will find that this will enable a broader engagement with people watching.
So now that I've said that, let's look at who played well and not-well last night on tape delay.
- Collect a triple double in the finals, and you will be named a Monstar. So congratulations to Will Conroy, who had 14 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. This wasn't even a performance that really grabbed you, Conroy was just really solid game long. If Conroy is in the D-League again next year and not in the NBA, I'm going to be pretty mad. Also of note is Conroy's buzzer-beating half-court three at the end of the second quarter, which I'm pretty sure hit nothing but net.
- Mike Harris was limited with foul trouble (five in 21 and a half minutes), but he was fantastic when he was on the court. Harris scored 24 points on 12 shots and grabbed seven boards, and he was working well in the post but also driving by his defenders (I'll address that later) with relative ease.
- Larry Owens was pretty much unstoppable in the first half, doing most of his work against Antonio Anderson. I can't even fault Anderson too much, since he was playing tough, close defense, but Owens just hit shot after shot. The 66ers went away from him a bit in the second half for reasons I don't quite understand, but he finished with 21 points and six rebounds.
- Tulsa guard Cecil Brown was out with an injury (ankle, I believe), so rookie Latavious Williams got the start, and he was really good. Most of his points came on dunks and free throws (he shot a season/career-high 10 free throws in this game), but he still scored 13 points on seven shots and grabbed 13 rebounds in less than 24 minutes. I'm not sure he'll ever be a small forward in the NBA, as commentator Eric Musselman suggested, but he certainly showed why he's an intriguing frontcourt prospect.
- Marcus Lewis had a rough outing, with six points, only one rebound and four fouls in 23 minutes, and absolutely not being able to guard Mike Harris. Lewis is more of a post defender, and RGV poses a bad matchup for him as both Harris and center Julian Sensley are comfortable playing on the perimeter. His body/conditioning also isn't really suited to a fast pace, and he was having a hard time making it up and down the court even a few minutes into the game.
- DeVon Hardin played okay in some limited first half minutes, with a pair of nice blocks, but overall he finished with five fouls in 15 and a half minutes. Hardin still has a long way to go in terms of knowing when and when not to go for the block, boxing out and developing post moves, but it's also probably important to note that he turns 24 this year. For comparison's sake, Serge Ibaka is three years younger and has a similar skill-set but is already better and providing quality minutes for a playoff team. So while it's certainly possible that Hardin will develop into an NBA player (another year in Tulsa would be a good start), his upside maybe isn't as ridiculous as you'd think.
- JaJuan Smith played well in the first half, providing energy and scoring off the bench, but his early success led to him giving himself the green light to shoot in the second half, with worse results. Smith ended up taking 10 threes in this game, and while he made four of them for a decent percentage overall, he was taking a lot of bad shots in the third quarter and contributing to the 66ers' lack of ball movement that (among other things) let RGV go up by 12.