The Los Angeles D-Fenders were unable to overcome their lack of depth and mounting injuries in the decisive game of the D-League finals, falling 91-63 to the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
The Skyforce ripped off a 10-0 run to start, but the D-Fenders battled back to end the quarter only trailing 17-22 behind seven points and three steals from Josh Magette. Magette got a bit of help from Vander Blue in the second quarter (both had 10 points at the half) but the entire team struggled, shooting just 30 percent in the first half while turning the ball over seven times. All things considered, it was an accomplishment they only trailed 42-35 at the half.
Things went from bad to worse in the third quarter, as Los Angeles announced they would be without Ryan Gomes for the second half with an injury they suspected was a torn groin. Los Angeles looked deflated before D-League MVP Jarnell Stokes (25 points on 11-13 shooting and 12 rebounds) started hitting his outside jumper, and the Skyforce pounced, outscoring the D-Fenders 27-13 in the period.
Los Angeles was unable to mount the type of fourth quarter comeback unseen outside of the films the city is known for, and ultimately lost their second shot at the franchise's first ever title. The undersized and perennially overlooked Josh Magette played his heart out in the loss, managing to put together 21 points on 18 shots and swiping three steals while being asked to do everything for Los Angeles. No one else could get anything going for the D-Fenders, who shot an abysmal 29 percent from the field (and five percent from behind the arc) in the loss.
Despite the loss, the D-Fenders' season should still be considered a success. The fourth and final seed overcame injuries and leaned on their starters for huge minutes to scrap their way to a chance at a title. Many of these guys won't be back next season given the transitive nature of the D-League, but even if their "17 bricks" didn't build a championship, it still created a memorable campaign that raised the value going forward of many of the players and coaches in the organization.
For fans of the Lakers, that's all they can hope for from their franchise's minor league outfit.
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