I hope Punxsutawney Phil either sees his shadow or doesn't see his shadow this morning - whichever result means winter's almost over up here in frigid North Dakota (I believe it was -100 last night).
Anyway, let's get a little less talk about current events (this isn't Mr. Hager's eighth grade whatever-class-we-had-to-present-a-current-event-once-a-week-in) and a lot more
action talk about what happened in the D-League last night beginning with the New Mexico Thunderbirds defeating the Texas Legends 130-123 in "frigid" New Mexico.
Typically I'd like to lead off these nice little wrap-ups with a player from the winning team that dominated or at least a player that was included in the above highlights. This morning, however, we're going with neither because the Legends were led by little-known Dominique Johnson as he scored 31 points (10-12 FG, 5-5 3-pointers, 6-6 FT) in 34 minutes off the bench.
Johnson, a 6-foot-3 rookie guard who is the reigning Player of the Year out of Azusa Pacific, was cut by the Idaho Stampede in training camp and had been to a couple of tryouts with D-League teams before Texas gave him a chance by picking him up last week. Since then, he's averaging 14.8 points and shooting 67 percent from the field. With last night's performance, I'd say he's a player to keep an eye on for the rest of the D-League season.
Other leaders for the Legends included Joe Alexander as he had 27 points and seven rebounds, Booker Woodfox contributed 20 points and eight assists and NBA-veteran Antonio Daniels had a cool 15 points and 11 assists while turning the ball over just once in 38 minutes of action.
For the home team, Dar Tucker led the way with 25 points and eight rebounds, but I might be tempted to give my player of the game vote to Abdullai Jalloh. Jalloh, a 6-foot-2 point guard who spent time with the Maine Red Claws and Springfield Armor last season, got to the charity stripe eight times in the last 1:47 to help the Thunderbirds maintain their lead. He'd finish with 19 points. Shane Edwards also chipped in 20 while NBA Draft-eligible Jamine Peterson scored 18 points in less than 16 minutes off the bench.
In the other (and more highly-regarded) game of the night, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers defeated the Iowa Energy with a final score of 135-128. The Vipers were led by shooting guard Jerel McNeal as he scored 27 points, dished seven assists and grabbed six rebounds for his fourth-straight 20+ point game.
Houston Rockets assignee Ish Smith definitely looked better in the highlights, though, as he showed blazing speed and solid defense on his way to a solid all-around game of 14 points, seven assists (but also seven turnovers), six rebounds and four blocks (!?) in his first game back to the Valley. Player of the Month Jeff Adrien had a below-average 19 points, seven rebounds and four blocks (HO-HUM).
For the Energy, Othyus Jeffers scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds despite being listed at 6-foot-5 -- it's shocking he hasn't been called up this season. Off the bench, Marqus Blakely continued his solid play by scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds and a couple of blocks off the bench. Chris Lofton did what he does by scoring 23 points, but he hit just 4-of-10 from beyond the arc.