As the NBA Development League season draws to a close, there is still a lot that remains to be determined. With eight games remaining on their schedule, the Santa Cruz Warriors need all the wins they can get, as they find themselves with only a brief lead over the seventh and eight seeded Sioux Falls Skyforce and Iowa Energy at 25-17. While they have some easier games at the back end of their schedule, they'll go up against the Reno Bighorns and L.A. D-Fenders over the next two weeks - two teams that are gearing themselves up for a long post-season run, too. But before they can prepare themselves for those heavyweight match-ups, they play host to the Iowa Energy for a duo of home games this weekend, the first of which was played last night.
As expected, it was a hard fought game. To add some fuel to the fire, it was Nate Bjorkgren, the Warriors' head coach last season, as well as Casey Hill's mentor, return to the Bay Area since leading them to the finals in 2013. (Before the game, Hill even said, "I want to beat him.") The Energy had three players score 20 or more points - Othyus Jeffers, Glen Rice, Jr and Jackie Carmichael - and they went neck-and-neck with the Warriors through two quarters. However, in the third, Seth Curry and Joe Alexander combined for 24 points, which turned the game on its head, spurning a 19-6 run to give them a eight-point lead heading into the final frame. And after that, they didn't look back.
The Warriors scored a season-high 129 points, and won quite comfortably by 10-points. Seth Curry led the way for the Warriors with his second 30-point game of the season. He also had four rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block. Joe Alexander chipped in with 24 points and Warriors assignee Ognjen Kuzmic had his sixth double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Curry has been one of the best point guard's in the D-League all season long, with averages of 19.4 points, 5.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. He has routinely found himself at the top of our Prospect Pyramid here on Ridiculous Upside, and is currently listed 18th on the D-League's Prospect Watch. He's proven time and time again that he's capable of doing it all, from putting up big scoring numbers to setting his teammates up for easy buckets. However this final stretch may be what defines his season.
While the Warriors hold a slight lead over the Energy and Skyforce at the bottom of the playoff standings, they are also trailing the number one seeded Rio Grande Valley Vipers by just three games. There is still a chance that they could miss the post-season if they slide, yet they could also make a final push at stealing the top seed. With Cameron Jones, Joe Alexander and Hilton Armstrong in his corner, Curry has plenty of help to make it happen, but it is ultimately on him who will take this team further. The good news is that they all appear to be ready for the task at hand, per Sea Dubs Central:
"What we have here is a committed group," said Hill. "Our locker room is the healthiest it’s been all year and guys are happy understanding their roles. It’s really good."