Marcus Landry played as a power forward while in college at Wisconsin, but played as the point guard for his Reno Bighorns down the stretch on Sunday as his team came back to defeat the Erie BayHawks 106-101 in game one of the D-League quarterfinal series.
The Jay Larranga led BayHawks led 89-78 with nine minutes left in the game, but the team slowly fell apart for the remainder of the game as the Reno Bighorns were able to out-hustle (and out-muscle) Erie while continuously getting and-one opportunities while attacking the basket.
The free-throw disparity was obviously the key down the stretch, but looking at the box score, Eric Musselman's Bighorns shot -- and made -- 21 more freebies while impressively shooting 84 percent from the charity stripe compared to the BayHawks 63 percent. The officiating didn't seem terribly biased, the Bighorns didn't have a foul called on them until a shooting foul over two minutes into the second quarter.
And now, what everyone's been waiting for: the Monstars and the Nonstars. First up, the Monstars:
Landry took over as the point guard when Musselman curiously subbed out starter Donald Sloan with around 10 minutes left in the game, which seemed more than strange at the time, but Landry showed he could bring the ball up the court, get the offense into position and take advantage of the mismatches that were inevitable when the former power forward lined up on the perimeter. The brother of current New Orleans Hornet Carl Landry, Marcus scored 12 of his 25 points in the final stanza including the final go-ahead three-pointer to put the Bighorns up 97-95 with just over two minutes left to play. He finished shooting 3-of-6 for the game from beyond the arc.
Ivan Johnson's performance for the BayHawks was quite outstanding as the 6-foot-8 power forward finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals (and the obligatory Ivan Johnson Technical FoulTM, of course). The BayHawks opened the game by getting the ball inside and letting Johnson either find the open man or take the ball to the bucket and it worked tremendously. They slowly went away from that, however, leading to Johnson looking a bit perturbed down the stretch as Erie slowly lost its lead. In particular, two things impressed me about Johnson's performance on Sunday: he's got great court vision and he banked in a three-pointer -- both are qualities I like to see.
It isn't typical that two of the three best players in the game happened to be on the losing team, but I think Blake Ahearn's individual performance deserves to be mentioned in this space as well. The point guard battled foul trouble while making three of his six shot attempts from beyond the arc to finish with 17 points, nine assists and just one turnover in 36 minutes of playing time. The clutch shooter probably should have been given a chance to tie the game with 5.8 seconds left, but his teammates randomly decided to attempt a 20-foot two-pointer that ultimated caromed off the rim.
Next up, obviously, are the dreaded Nonstars.
Rookie Tasmin Mitchell gets the top nod, despite finishing with 18 points and being a pretty good defender. The 6-foot-7 athlete known for everything but his shooting seemed to think he was allowed to be in "automatic heat check mode" through the duration of his game. While he made 9-of-17 from the field, he made numerous bad decisions including taking the aforementioned 20-foot two-pointer with 5.8 seconds left in the game and the BayHawks down three with Ahearn wide-open at the top of the key. Mitchell then didn't get back on defense, leading to Erik Daniels having to scramble over and foul Mo Charlo before he could make an easy lay-up.
I'm going to keep this short and sweet because I typically like what Nate Linhart brings to the BayHawks, but the 2009 MAC Defensive Player of the Year had a pretty terrible outing as he missed seven of his eight shot attempts and finished with a team-worst -11 in the +/- department.
For the Bighorns, I expect a lot out of Patrick O'Bryant when the opposing starting center is Kyle Goldcamp. After the former lottery pick's game today, however, I'm not sure I should have expected anything as his six points in 26 minutes was far from impressive. It obviously didn't impress Musselman, either, as Musselman sat the majority of the fourth quarter despite having just one foul to his name.
Game two of the three-game series will be Tuesday night in Reno with the opening tip slated for 10 p.m. ET.