The Sioux Falls Skyforce bench taunted the Los Angeles D-Fenders towards the end of their game one win by calling Sioux Falls "the land of no return." With their hard-fought 109-102 road victory on Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers' D-League affiliate are one game from proving them wrong.
In a close game in which no team held more than a two-point lead at the end of the first three quarters, Los Angeles outscored the Skyforce 29-23 in the fourth quarter to force a decisive game three on Wednesday in Sioux Falls.
The D-Fenders led 80-79 at the end of the third quarter, and the two teams were all knotted up at 86 with eight minutes left to play before Los Angeles went on a 10-3 run. The Skyforce rallied back, and with one minute left in the fourth quarter and a 100-97 lead, the D-Fenders needed a final push to extend their season. Justin Harper (21 points, seven assists, and five rebounds) and Josh Magette (16 points, 10 assists, and two steals) gave it to them, hitting three-pointers on consecutive possessions to give Los Angeles a 106-97 lead. Toure Murry hit a three on the next Sioux Falls possession with 23.1 seconds remaining but it was too late, as Sioux Falls was forced to intentionally foul the rest of the way before ultimately losing for the first time in the postseason.
The D-Fenders were once again paced in scoring by the D-League's regular season leading scorer, Vander Blue, who poured in 29 points on 18 shots while being rewarded for his relentless drives to the rim with seven free throw attempts. His fellow starter Andre Ingram also picked up his scoring at the right time, with his 20 points being the most he scored in any game this postseason. The D-League's all-time leader in made three-pointers ably spaced the floor for his teammates' assaults on the rim against the best defense in the league.
Los Angeles was able to hold league MVP Jarnell Stokes to just four shots, although he made all four of them. The Skyforce will need more production from their top low post presence if they want to cap their historic season with a title. The D-Fenders will attempt to prevent history and win their first title in franchise history Wednesday night at 5 PM PST in Sioux Falls.
All stats per stat.nbadleague.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.