The first live televised game of the D-League season on VERSUS didn't disappoint as Brian Hamilton and the Utah Flash upset the top-seeded Iowa Energy at home to force a third and deciding game in their quarterfinal D-League playoff series.
In a back-and-forth game that saw 15 lead changes, the Flash were able to take a six point lead after the first quarter, but trailed 59-55 headed into halftime after Iowa scored 35 points in the second. Utah was able to pull within two headed into the final quarter before again falling behind 96-88 in the fourth quarter before eventually taking the 119-118 victory to force game three.
The Flash didn't have a great shooting night, making just 44-of-96 from the field, but made up for that with 18 second chance opportunities by way of offensive rebounds compared to just eight from Iowa.
Game three of the series will be held Tuesday night in Iowa at 8 p.m. The winner will then face the fourth-seeded Tulsa 66ers after the Nate Tibbetts led team swept the Texas Legends over the weekend.
As always, I've included individual player breakdowns after the jump.
First the Monstars:
With starting center Brandon Costner shut down for the season due to a sprained MCL, I was fairly certain that Nkem Ogjouboh would be heavily relied upon if the Flash were able to come out of game two with a victory. While Ogjouboh started and did alright in his 24 minutes of playing time, Flash coach Kevin Young used 6-foot-6 Brian Hamilton quite a bit as his go-to big man off the bench. In turn, Hamilton played great defense in the post while showing off some nice post moves of his own on the way to 20 points in 29 minutes. Interesting side note: This isn't the first time Hamilton's come up big against the Energy during the playoffs.
The other Utah player that impressed me was Kevin Kruger, the 6-foot-2 starting point guard and son of the legendary Lon Kruger. Kruger's box score statistics weren't necessarily anything to write home about as he shot 6-of-12 from the field to finish with 18 points, six assists, three steals and three turnovers, but 10 of those point came within the last 6 minutes and 15 seconds of the game -- six coming on back-to-back three-pointers to give Iowa a 112-111 lead after trailing 109-106 with less than two minutes to go in the game.
For Iowa, Curtis Stinson did everything Nick Nurse could expect of his point guard by totaling 34 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists while turning the ball over just once despite playing every minute of the game. I've never been the biggest Stinson fan, but the way he willed his way to the rim in this game -- and shot 13-of-14 from the charity stripe -- was quite impressive.
Orien Greene finished with a team-high 23 points for the Flash, but didn't move the ball well which finds him in a bit of no man's land when it comes to Monstars and Nonstars. That said I decided to put him after my Monstars, but before the Nonstars (coming up next!).
Without further adieu, ladies and gents, here are your game two Nonstars:
Stefhon Hannah probably shouldn't be a D-League starter, especially for the top-seeded Energy, and Monday night's stinker confirmed that. The 6-foot-1 point guard out of Missouri missed a breakaway lay-up early and ended up turning the ball over six times in his 19 minutes of court time. Nurse did stick with him in the clutch, however, but it didn't pay off as Tony Gaffney swatted his potential go-ahead lay-up with 16.9 seconds left in the game.
The second Nonstar goes to Iowa forward Moses Ehambe. Considering the 6-foot-7 shooter has made 45 percent of his 604 three-point attempts since joining the league in 2008, one would probably assume it'd be a safe bet that Ehambe would be able to continue shooting well from beyond the arc in the playoffs. That hasn't been the case, however, as Ehambe followed up game one's 0-for-3 performance from the three-point line with a 1-for-6 effort in Monday's loss. If ever there was a time to go cold, Ehambe chose it wrong.
For the Flash, I was rather disappointed in the play of Ronald Dupree. He had been dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of game one -- and maybe that affected him in game two as well -- but his performance from the free-throw line is what has me worried. The NBA veteran missed two freebie attempts with 46 seconds left in the game and his team down one after picking up a silly technical foul earlier in the quarter as he apparently was seeking to define the term unclutch. On the game, Dupree made 4-of-11 from the field and 3-of-6 from the line to finish with 11 points.