On a Tuesday night in Hidalgo, Texas, the Salt Lake City Stars defeated the RGV Vipers 138-120 to boost their winning streak to 4 games. That victory over the Vipers also pushes the Stars to maintain a 25-21 record and remain tied with the Memphis Hustle for the 5th spot in the Western Conference standings. Currently, both teams sit .5 games ahead of the AC Clippers and 1.5 games in front of the SIoux Falls Skyforce, who are both looking to spend the last few days of the regular season trying to sneak into the playoffs.
The leader behind the Stars victory over the Vipers was former UMB guard Jairus Lyles. In only 32 minutes, the SLC guard put up a career-high 41 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals on 11-14 from field, 8-10 from 3 and 11-12 from the free throw line. As evident from those numbers, the majority of his offensive production came as a perimeter shooter as he was nailing long-range bombs whether he was receiving passes from teammates or after moving around off-ball screens.
On the other end of the court, Lyles was also a force to be reckoned with as he snatched a career-high five steals against an RGV Vipers team with a pretty loaded backcourt. Those snatches came from a combination of stealing the ball from on-ball drivers as a help defender and taking advantage of opposing guards that were acting indecisive.
Lyles’ fantastic performance against the RGV Vipers was the climax point for a player that’s been moving in the right direction over the past month or two. Not counting that games, Lyles was averaging 15 points, 5.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals on 42% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 5 attempts per game during the span of time from February 1st through March 11th. While those are obviously not All-Star level numbers, it showed that Lyles was moving in the right direction before that phenomenal game on Tuesday night.
With the Stars looking to make a push for a playoff spot and beyond, Lyles could be a huge piece behind the team’s potential success. Because aside from Nazareth Mitrou-Long and Tyler Cavanaugh, SLC really hasn’t had a consistent offensive rotation player that they can rely upon. Sure, Jazz rookie Grayson Allen has been solid during his time with the team, as he’s averaged 15.7 points and 2.4 assists per game, that production has only come in 8 games so his presence isn’t exactly something that you can rely upon.
If Lyles can maintain the level of efficiency that’s he’s been showing over the past month-and-a-half, he can be a perfect fit for that aforementioned role. For one, he should get a lot of open looks as both Cavanaugh and Mitrou-Long are both dynamic offensive threats that can score both off the dribble and from beyond the arc. That predicament should leave Lyles with a lot of open perimeter looks. As evident from Tuesday’s game, the former UMBC guard is more than able to benefit from those opportunities.
With all those factors in mind, G League fans should keep their eyes on Jairus Lyles as he should be both an important and exciting player to watch as the Salt Lake City Stars finish the regular season and possibly make their first appearance in the G League playoffs since 2008-09.