When the NBA's trade deadline came to a close Thursday afternoon, the Idaho Stampede had to face a harsh reality: Either way, whether he got traded or not, they were going to lose the D-League's leading scorer, Pierre Jackson, to a team overseas. In 31 games this season, the 5-foot-11 spark plug led the Stampede to a 17-15 record. He was D-League's number on prospect and for a good reason: He was a scoring machine. In 31 games, he had totalled 903 points, putting him 397 shy of tying Will Conroy's all-time D-League scoring record. He also averaged 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals.
No matter which way way you look at it, filling that void from here on out isn't going to be an easy task for the Stampede.
Luckily for them, they'd still got some NBA-caliber players. First, Dee Bost - a do-it-all point guard who has gotten better as the season has worn on. Secondly, Dallas Lauderdale - one of the best centers still available in the D-League. And finally, Kevin Murphy - the third leading scorer with 25.6 points per contest.
Murphy should be no stranger to both NBA and D-League followers. In a game earlier this month, he set a D-League season-high with 51 points, which has since been broken by none other than Pierre Jackson. And last night, he came up big again for the Stampede, scoring 48 points on 17-for-30 shooting from the floor against a resiliant L.A. D-Fenders squad made up on some former NBA players.
This was a tight game from start to finish. After two quarters of play, the D-Fenders found themselves with a five-point lead thanks to Terrence Williams' 16-point second second quarter. On and off again Laker Shawn Williams, also had a good half, chipping in with 10 points himself. And while Kevin Murphy had a solid opening to the game (14 points), it wasn't until the second-half where he started to get it rolling.
In the final quarter, Murphy put the team on his back and scored 19 of their 35 points. He shot 6-for-9 from the field and scored some big buckets down the stretch, including two free throws in the final 31.9 seconds to give the Stampede a three-point lead, as well as a pull-up jumper with 2.5 seconds remaining to put them back up by two. Had it not been for James Southerland's heroics on the ensuing possession, the game would've ended there. Instead, the Stampede had to deal with three minutes of overtime basketball, which is when something quite bizarre happened.
With 7.9 seconds to go in overtime, Reggie Hearn picked up his sixth and final foul. However, since the Stampede only had four available players, Hearn stayed in the game and the team was assessed a technical. The D-Fenders went on to miss two of their next three free throws (one technical and two from Hearn's personal foul) and on the final play of the game, Hearn hit a prayer from just inside the three-point line. In other words, the player who fouled out the game for the Stampede ended up hitting the game-winner.
Again, very bizarre. The Stampede won by a final score of 129-128.
Other than Murphy, Dee Bost had a huge performance for the Stampede, going off for 12 points, 16 rebounds, 15 assists and four steals. Dallas Lauderdale played just 27 minutes, but swatted away a game-high seven shots. Derrick Caracter came off the bench to score 22 points and Reggie Hearn contributed with 17.
The Pierre Jackson era is over for the Idaho Stampede and their season is coming to a close. Not only that, but they are facing the possibility of missing the Playoffs, as they are currently one game behind the Santa Cruz Warriors for the eighth seed. They've still got plenty of time to make up the difference (and it is only a slight difference at that), but it won't be easy without Pierre Jackson in uniform. But if Dee Bost continues to fill up the stat sheet and Kevin Murphy proves himself as the best remaining two-guard in the D-League, there's no reason why they shouldn't be in the mix.