EL SEGUNDO- The Los Angeles D-Fenders smacked the Santa Cruz Warriors on Saturday night for their third victory in their first four games of the season. The Los Angeles Lakers' D-League affiliate ran their parent club-inspired offense to the tune of 54.1 percent shooting and 51.6 percent from three on 29 assists.
“Everyone was really unselfish, really passed the ball tonight,” D-Fenders head coach Coby Karl told Silver Screen and Roll. “We gave up good shots to get great shots.”
Josh Magette was once again the engine that powered the D-Fenders' offense. The returning floor general is leading the D-League in assists for the second consecutive year, and gave the D-Fenders 19 points on 11 shots and a D-League season-high 17 assists.
“We’ve got a lot of shooters and a lot of scorers, so it makes it really easy on me,” Magette said. “When we’re making threes we’re really tough to guard.”
Magette’s 17 assists fittingly bumped him up to 17th all-time in assists in the D-League, a development D-Fenders guard Vander Blue was unsurprised by.
“He’s just doing what he do. Finding spots, finding people, and knowing when to score,” Blue said. “I would never want to play with another point guard.”
Blue’s output made a convincing case for the two to stick together. The three-year veteran poured in 12 of his 28 points in the third quarter to help Los Angeles maintain their 18-point first half lead and never look back.
“Vander has been great,” said Karl. “He’s been patient, he’s been moving the ball when we ask him to move it, he’s been playing D. It’s a credit to him. He’s been playing within the flow of the game and in the second half he took advantage of it.”
Blue’s 28 points came on just 15 shots, which was additionally impressed his teammates.
“I’m really proud of his efficiency,” added Magette. “He can score any way he needs to and he’s just a fun guy to play with.”
Additionally contributing was forward Travis Wear, who scored 23 points in the first half before falling hard and having to leave the game. Wear cleared concussion protocol and returned to the contest, but left for good after a brief third quarter stint.
Seven-footer David Foster provided energy off the bench, swatting five shots in just under 15 minutes and helping clean up dribble penetration in the paint.
The D-Fenders held Santa Cruz to 40.2 percent shooting and 28.1 percent from three, and at 3-1 appear ready to defend their Western Conference title once they work out a few kinks.
“I think last game we sort of got away from playing with each other. The ball was sticking a little bit. Everybody was trying to do it themselves, me being guilty of that as well,” Blue said. “Tonight we got to playing our ball, playing together and having fun. When we do that, we’re really good.”
Zubac impresses despite growing pains:
Ivica Zubac made his D-Fenders debut in the team’s only loss of the week. The rookie rumbled for 13 points on 66.7 percent shooting, three rebounds and two blocks before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
At least he knows his strengths, judging by his shot chart:
“I played with him a couple times this summer, but that was my first time playing with him for an extended amount and I was really impressed,” Magette said following the game. “Missed shots don’t really hurt you around the rim like they usually do because he’s going to be there for the offensive putback. I know I missed a couple layups and he was there to put them back in or get fouled.”
D-Fenders receive support from Lakers:
Last year a few Lakers’ made appearances at D-Fenders games. Tarik Black, Ryan Kelly, and Anthony Brown were all sent down for assignments.
Jordan Clarkson showed up to support his teammates at least once, as well as once showing up ready to work out before realizing the gym was being used for a D-Fenders game that night.
All that noted, this weekend was definitely the most organized support the minor league team has received from the organization in person. Mitch Kupchak, Luke Walton, assistant coach Theo Robertson, video coordinator Will Scott, D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jr., and various other members of their family and friends showed up to support Zubac in his debut on Thursday night. Walton and assistant coach Jesse Mermuys brought their families for another visit on Saturday night.
It may not end up making a difference for the team in the grand scheme of things, but having the Lakers as such a visible presence around their D-League squad would certainly seem to be one way to help legitimize it as a destination for undrafted free agents.