The Los Angeles Lakers may have missed the playoffs entirely after posting their worst season in franchise history, but there is still one purple and gold team from Los Angeles having postseason success. The Los Angeles D-Fenders beat the Austin Spurs 117-104 on Wednesday night to win the Western Conference finals and earn their second ever appearance in the D-League Finals.
NBA veteran Ryan Gomes led the way for the D-Fenders with 35 points and 12 rebounds in the decisive game, while his frontcourt-mate, stretch-five Justin Harper, scored 25 points and pulled down eight boards. Vander Blue, former Laker and the D-League's regular season leading scorer, chipped in 21 points of his own. All-time D-League leading three-point shooter Andre Ingram's 5-6 shooting helped space the floor, and his activity defensively (two steals and several more deflections) helped the D-Fenders hold the Spurs to just 20 points each in the second and third quarters.
The D-Fenders were down as much as 10 points in the second quarter after a rough start, but closed the quarter on a 25-10 run. Los Angeles continued to clamp down in the third quarter before the Spurs' Brandon Fields (27 points on 11-19 shooting) brought Austin back within six with seven minutes remaining in the game. But the D-Fenders answered back, with a Gomes putback on a key offensive rebound followed by a free-throw line jumper from Josh Magette (16 points, five assists, and four rebounds) pushing the lead back to ten and ultimately out of Austin's reach.
The D-Fenders' passing continued to impress, and if the team can keep moving the ball while shooting around 37 percent from behind the arc like they did on Wednesday, they will have a great shot to win the first D-League title in franchise history. The best of three D-League Finals tips off on Sunday, April 24th at 4 PM PST.
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