The Rio Grande Valley Vipers have been known to come up with clutch shots in times of need while playing in front of the home crowd -- the reason I predicted that the home team would win -- and, in true Vipers fashion, it happened again on Sunday night in game one of their NBA D-League playoffs semifinal series against the Reno Bighorns.
Rio Grande Valley actually had a 13-point lead with 10 minutes left in regulation, but Reno slowly and methodically forced its way back into the game by slicing to the lane and either converting on the high-percentage shot attempts or the ensuing free-throw opportunities to tie the game and force overtime.
In the (D-League exclusive!) three-minute overtime, RGV afterthought Terrel Harris scored five of his team's six points as the Vipers pulled out a 98-96 victory to take a 1-0 lead heading to Reno on Wednesday -- and Thursday, if necessary -- for the remainder of the three-game series.
The Bighorns had a chance to win during regulation, when Donald Sloan waited too long for a play to develop before taking a fallaway jumper as time expired, as well as an opportunity to force a second overtime, but Marcus Landry's inability to hit two free-throws with 2.9 seconds left allowed the Vipers to hold on for the hard-fought victory.
Terrel Harris wasn't exactly excellent in this game as he shot just 2-of-9 before overtime began and finished a mediocre 4-of-11 from the field in 31 minutes off the bench, but his late-game heroics and the fact the 6-foot-5 guard was able to pull in 12 rebounds gets him the top spot. The second-year pro out of Oklahoma State was with the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2009 Summer League, but his 10.8 points per game average during the regular season didn't scream postseason star. His clutch corner three-pointer with 11.8 seconds left in the game on a dish from Jerel McNeal was definitely the play of the game, however, giving Harris the much-deserved top spot on the ever-important Ridiculous Upside's Monstars and NonstarsTM list.
Patrick Sullivan was just as impressive as hyped him up to be in my preview of the game as the Vipers' 6-foot-9 center scored 17 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and swatted three shots -- including what would have been a vicious dunk from Donald Sloan late regulation. The rookie didn't have too much competition as Patrick O'Bryant struggled frequently on the defensive end and was shut down after less than 17 minutes on the court, but I still have to give credit where credit is due (and it was due here).
From the losing team, I was most impressed with the play of Florida State alumnus Anthony Richardson. The 6-foot-8 forward scored 21 points and grabbed five rebounds while often being the tallest player on the court for the undersized (without O'Bryant) Bighorns. Richardson's played all around the world over the past five seasons (actually just Germany, Holland and Butte, Montana) and his veteran style really shows in his poise while he's on the court.
Now, unfortunately, we get to the Nonstars.
Patrick O'Bryant actually started out very good on the offensive end despite a lingering knee injury, connecting on five of his seven shot attempts, but coach Musselman has the former NBA lottery pick on quite a short leash and yanked him after a poor defensive showing despite his offensive efficiency. I like O'Bryant, but the fact that he can't stay on the court for more than 17 minutes in the D-League probably doesn't speak well to his NBA future.
It's pretty difficult to decide whether Bobby Simmons or Marcus Landry, two of the five NBA veterans at Musselman's disposal, so I'm going to include them both in this paragraph. Simmons was 1-of-9 from the field and finished with just four points in 26 minutes while Landry was better, but not by much. The younger brother of the New Orleans Hornets' Carl Landry shot just 4-of-14 from the field and missed both of the potential game-tying free-throw attempts with 2.9 seconds left in the game.
The third Nonstar goes to the Vipers Mouhammad Faye. The rookie stretch-forward shot quite well during the regular season, but made just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc on Sunday night while with a game-low -21 in the +/- department. I wouldn't be surprised if Connor Atchley gets the start next game -- or at least more minutes.
In case that recap wasn't enough, I encourage you to check out David Hinojosa's gamer as well as the actual box score to get a better idea of what happened in this game I stayed up to late watch on Versus.