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2018 NBA G League Playoff Game Preview: South Bay Lakers vs. Austin Spurs

Editor Dakota Schmidt previews the Austin Spurs vs. South Bay Lakers game.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

WHEN: 8 PM ET

WHERE: H-E-B Center at Cedar Park

HOW TO WATCH: ESPNews

What you need to know about the South Bay Lakers

Among the four teams that are still fighting for a G League title, the South Bay Lakers undoubtedly stands as the hottest team. Because in their first two playoff games, South Bay beat their opponents, OKC Blue and Reno Bighorns, by an average of 18.5 points. That level of absolute dominance was due to the Lakers solid combination of strong front-court play with backcourt excellence.

In regards to their front-court, Lakers assignees Thomas Bryant and Travis Wear shined as a great HORNS duo as they were both able to hit the perimeter jumper while also being able to shine from around the rim.

Meanwhile, the tandem of Gary Payton II and Scott Machado have shined as tremendous partners. Payton II is an uber-athletic guard that does a nice job of working the passing lanes and leading the team in transition. Machado probably stands alongside Josh Magette as the best facilitator in the G League as he seems to sense where his teammates are going before they actually make their moves. During those first two playoff games, the duo has combined to average 48.5 points, 14.5 assists and 16.5 rebounds per game on 49% from the field and 69% from beyond the arc.

Player To Watch: Travis Wear, Power Forward

Although the duo of Scott Machado and Gary Payton II have done a great job of being the leading cogs of South Bay’s playoff run, however Travis Wear has done a terrific job of being that extremely reliable scoring threat that Machado or Payton II can kick it to. During South Bay’s first two playoff games, he’s averaged 22 points, 7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 50% from the field and an amazing 59% from beyond the arc on 17 perimeter attempts per game.

Yes.. that’s an incredibly small sample size of games, but its not really surprising when you consider that he shot 42% from beyond the arc during the G League season, which ultimately placed him as one of the most efficient shooters in the G League. If their backcourt continues to play at the same level that they did in the first two playoff games, make sure to keep an eye out for Wear because he could have a plethora of open opportunities.

What you need to know about the Austin Spurs

Due to the sudden and tragic passing of Grand Rapids Drive guard Zeke Upshaw on Monday March 26th, the starting date of this year’s NBA G League Playoffs was moved back from the 27th to Friday the 30th. During those first round matchups, there didn’t seem to be any issue as teams basically played at the same level that they played during the regular season. For example, the South Bay Lakers were a tremendous offensive force while the Raptors 905 continued to establish himself as a defensive-force.

However, things started to really change as we moved into the 2nd round. Due to the new playoff format and the amount of playoff squads increasing to 12, the top two seeds in each conference had a 1st round bye. At first thought, that would seem like a benefit as those teams have some time to rest and also prepare for whichever opponent that they’d face in the following round.

However, those possible benefits didn’t seem to actually work out as three (Fort Wayne, Reno, Westchester of the four teams with 1st round byes were immediately eliminated. The lone top seed to actually move onto the 2nd round were the Austin Spurs who demolished the RGV Vipers 117-91.

The main cog of that victory was due to their starting unit as four members of their starting 5 (Jaron Blossomgame, Matt Costello, Darrun Hilliard and Derrick White) all scored 15+ points. In addition to that, they did a tremendous job of locking down the best offense in the G League as the Vipers shot an abysmal 19% from beyond the arc on 26 perimeter attempts.

Player To Watch: Derrick White, Point Guard

While that victory over the RGV Vipers was a team effort on both ends, the Spurs did have an offensive leader. That temporary captain was Spurs assignee Derrick White who had 20 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals on 8-18 from the field, 2-7 from 3 and 2-3 from the free throw line. Over the course of the game, he did a great job of controlling the Spurs offense, moving the ball around and controlling the pace of the game.

That solid outing against RGV is just an example of how White has been during his time with the Austin Spurs as he averaged 20.1 points, 5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game on 45% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. Although his perimeter shooting has been less than stellar, he’s been pretty solid in every other avenue of the game. His great play was a huge factor behind the Spurs maintaining a Western Conference best 32-18 record.

As we look towards this matchup against the South Bay Lakers, it will be interesting to see how he can perform against their stacked backcourt of Scott Machado and Gary Payton II. If he can maintain that same level of excellence against a solid defender like Payton II, then there’s a good chance that we’ll be seeing the Austin Spurs compete in the G League Finals.