Tulsa 66ers @ Rio Grande Valley Vipers: NBA D-League Finals Game 2 Preview

Every D-League playoff series has gone three games thus far. Can the Vipers buck the trend?

The pivotal game 2 of the NBA Development League championship series happens tonight with Rio Grande Valley up one-to-nothin' on the Tulsa 66ers.  There is no way to watch the game live even though Futurecast's headline is "Watch all games free on Futurecast," which annoys me to no end, so we will more than likely have the two-man live blog going again when the game hits VERSUS at 11pm CT - or whenever the hockey postgame stuff gets done.

Game 1 was won by the Vipers 124-107 in Tulsa - and it's only going to get easier in front of the RGV faithful back in Hidalgo.  We've given you the match-up breakdowns (and I assume that Cecil Brown will be re-inserted into the starting lineup tonight if healthy after missing game 1 with an ankle injury), explained how each team made it to the Finals and even broke down the regular season match-ups so there isn't really much else to give as far as a backstory goes.

Therefore, I'll tell you what needs to happen in the future ( as in tonight) for each team if they want to either sweep the series (Vipers) or hang on for game 3 (66ers).

First, for Tulsa since this game is more important to them:

  1. Make buckets: Really, Scott? This is your answer to the 66ers problems?  Yes, guy, yes it is.  Simply put, had Tulsa been able to shoot the way they were on their way to the Finals, Sunday's game would have been much closer than it turned out to be.  Consider that the 66ers had been shooting 46% from three-point territory throughout their first two playoff series.  Then consider that they made just 9-of-28 (32.1%) last game with the bench missing 10-of-14.  If Tulsa can't kill RGV from beyond the arc, they're not going to kill, or even beat, RGV.
  2. Keep Mike Harris off the floor: Easier said than done, of course, but they were able to do it in game 1 - so there is hope.  I hate the strategy, but if Deron Washington just keeps running toward the hoop whenever Harris is defending him, he's bound to pick up a few foul calls.  Why do I say that? Washington's attempted 33 free-throws in his last two games - he's going to get calls.  Since Harris is otherwise immortal, that is the only way to do it.
  3. Help Larry Owens! Just do it.  He's good, he makes me swoon and he had 13 points in the first quarter alone last game, but he can't do it all.  Deron Washington and Wink Adams (the starting backcourt combined to make just 8-of-27 from the field in game 1), this means you.
  4. Bonus: Transition defense - know it, love it, implement it.  If you're going to miss long jumpers and then not get back on defense, I'm going to be disappointed.
  5. LATAVIOUS WILLIAMS.

And now for Rio Grande Valley:

  1. Keep Mike Harris on the floor. While the Vipers were able to win game 1 without Harris on the floor for much of the second and third quarters, that's not really a strategy they can bank on with how vital he has been in some RGV games.  I'm not sure how to guarantee Harris is kept on the floor, but I would plan to keep him on Larry Owens instead of Deron Washington since Harris isn't as adept to running toward the basket.  Yep.  Have Harris defend the other teams best player who also plays under control. That should keep him out of foul trouble, right?
  2. Keep up the perimeter defense.  If Tulsa's willing to keep forcing shots even though they're well-defended, let them keep doing it.  Sound simple? It's because it is.  Just play defense.  With a couple of solid perimeter defenders, I don't expect this to change from game 1.
  3. Get another big game from the other guys: As Matthew Brennan the Prospect Watch points out, it's kind of important that guys like Julian Sensley and Idaho's finest, Ernest Scott, are able to produce as well as they did in game 1.  This game, I'll predict that Jonathan Wallace and Stanley Asumnu have randomly good games.

Prediction: I don't know how, or why, but I'm taking Tulsa in the upset.  Maybe Mustafa Shakur randomly returns, maybe Cecil Brown makes nine three-pointers or maybe I'm writing this too late at night but I've decided that every series is going to go three games.

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