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D-League Finals: Los Angeles D-Fenders Could Clinch Championship Tonight

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The NBA Development League season could end on Thursday night when the Austin Toros visit El Segundo, Calif., for Game 2 of the D-League Finals against the hosting Los Angeles D-Fenders. The Eric Musselman led D-Fenders won Game 1 in Austin, meaning the Lakers' D-League affiliate only needs to win one of their two home games to lay claim to the 2012 D-League Championship.

The biggest difference from Tuesday night's overtime game will be that each team will be missing their NBA players. The San Antonio Spurs recalled Cory Joseph for the remainder of the regular season while the Los Angeles Lakers decided to have Christian Eyenga return to the big club, leaving both teams to play Thursday evening's game without any current NBA players.

That'll likely hurt the Toros quite a bit more, however, considering Joseph had been starting -- and playing very solid defense -- whereas Eyenga was used in a more complementary role when considering the NBA player averaged a total of just 10 minutes through the D-Fenders first five games in the playoffs.

In their absence, the Toros should be just fine with Justin Dentmon and Squeaky Johnson handling backcourt duties while Los Angeles will probably find more time for Kareem Rush and Andre Ingram -- both of which are far better offensive players than Eyenga.

Without the help of the NBA players, what else should we look for, you ask?

  • The D-Fenders shot 50 free-throws, on the road, compared to the Toros' 21 in the first game of the series. There's no way that should be sustainable, but considering they'll be playing at home in Game 2, there's a possibility that happens (I planned to post a Tweet from one of the Austin players here, but he's since deleted it).
  • Will Austin's best players rebound? Justin Dentmon and Flip Murray combined to make five of their 24 three-pointers in Tuesday's loss and, even though their 29 combined points wasn't a terrible outcome, that'll have to change if the Toros are going to stay alive.
  • The rebounding battle is going to have to shift in the other direction -- That will likely be the case, too, if Eric Dawson can be cleared from his concussion. Los Angeles outrebounded Austin 62-42 in the first game, 25 of which caromed into the waiting hands of Malcolm Thomas (turns out Luke Zeller isn't the rebounding big man we all thought he could be!).
  • I've already decided Elijah Millsap should be the Finals MVP.

Hooray, basketball!