The Los Angeles D-Fenders used dominant second and third quarters to hang on for a late 99-90 win over the Oklahoma City Blue on Saturday night, outscoring the Blue by 19 points over those two periods. D-Fenders' guard Vander Blue (and newly named D-League All-Star) Vander Blue continued to demonstrate his prodigious bucket-getting ability, and if Oklahoma City was not already named the Blue, one would think it was just a tribute to the man that lit them up for 31 points on Saturday night. Blue also chipped in 7 rebounds and 4 steals in a well-rounded effort.
Additionally impressive was Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black, who was assigned to the D-Fenders for the night in order to pick up minutes while he continues to be inexplicably benched by head coach Byron Scott with the parent club. Black scored 15 points on 5-7 shooting against the Blue, and also pulled down 14 rebounds and blocked 4 shots in the win.
While he was criticized earlier this year for not playing with enough energy, the game once again showed that is far from an issue for the energetic second-year pro.
The above clip shows 2 of Black's 5 offensive rebounds against Oklahoma City, an ability he has shown in his NBA minutes as well, grabbing 11.3% of the Lakers' own misses while he has been on the floor this season. Black also excels at catching and finishing lob passes, an ability he got to show off on this well designed set from D-Fenders head coach Casey Owens:
Here Black sets a screen at the free-throw line for D-Fenders forward Justin Harper before rolling to the rim. The Blue defense was sucked in by the driving Harper, leaving Black with a clear runway for takeoff. And while Black is mostly known as a one dimensional dunker on offense, he got another chance to showcase his improving mid-range jumper and face-up game with the D-Fenders:
On the other end of the floor, Black once again showed he can protect the rim despite being listed as a generous 6'9, most notably when he affected one shot before staying active to pick up his fifth block and help seal the game for the D-Fenders:
Black continues to demonstrate the exact type of skill set that could help the Lakers, and while it is still baffling that he remains nailed to the bench with the parent team, there were a few other notable takeaways from the D-Fenders' 15th win of the season.
The much heralded undrafted free-agent (an oxymoron that is still accurate in this case) completed his second game back in the D-Fenders lineup after missing several weeks with a viral illness. Upshaw scored 5 points on 2-4 shooting in his 10 minutes of playing time, showing of improving skills and soft hands on this basket:
After the initial pick-and-roll went nowhere, Upshaw posted up, got the defender on his hip, and used his full length to catch and make an off-balance finish. Upshaw has been a target for high passes by D-Fenders guards all season, often having to utilize his full wingspan in order to do so.
On the play below, Upshaw was unable to score on his initial attempt to finish, but encouragingly stayed with the play and drew a foul on his second attempt after snatching the offensive rebound:
Upshaw's minutes will likely be limited while he regains his conditioning following a lengthy illness, and he is still raw, notably the only D-Fenders player with a negative plus-minus rating against the Blue (-5). There is a lot of noise in that stat, but it is demonstrative of the progress Upshaw still has to make in order to contribute to an NBA team.
Magette didn't have his best game of the season against the Blue, shooting just 4-16 en route to 8 points, but Los Angeles' starting point guard again flirted with a triple-double with his 10 assists and 6 rebounds. Magette's passing has been key to the D-Fenders' offense this year, as is his ability to effectively run a pick-and-roll:
On the play above, Magette patiently kept his dribble alive while going downhill until the entire Blue defense collapsed around him before finding Ryan Gomes for a three. Magette also picked up three steals on defense, the last of which helped put the game in the refrigerator when he assisted a Blue three on the other end, breaking an Oklahoma City run:
Like Blue, Magette is unlikely to get called up to the Lakers due to the team's glut of guards, but he has had an impressive season for the D-Fenders.
All stats per NBA.com and dleague.nba.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.