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Lakers’ Nwaba nets 22 points, D-Fenders lose game one of D-League playoffs to Vipers

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Los Angeles was able to force overtime, but just couldn’t close.

Trevor Wong / D-Fend the Hoop

The Los Angeles D-Fenders got 22 points for Los Angeles Lakers’ assigneee David Nwaba, but it wasn’t enough to take game one of their three-game playoff series against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, falling 124-116 on the road after being outscored 14-6 in overtime.

The D-Fenders started the game down 18-7, and kept closing within two points but couldn’t take a lead in the first, and trailed 35-29 after one quarter of play while shooting 46 percent from the field in the first.

Los Angeles fared better in the next quarter, taking a 39-37 lead on a 3-pointer from veteran guard Andre Ingram (11 points, 3-4 on threes), and 15 second-quarter points from suddenly unstoppable 34-year-old rookie reserve Troy DeVries allowed Los Angeles to take a 64-56 lead into halftime.

The Vipers rallied back in the third quarter, however, outscoring the D-Fenders 32-19 in the period to take an 88-83 lead heading into the fourth and final frame.

The D-Fenders managed to take a 97-94 lead in the fourth on a jumper from Travis Wear, but the Vipers appeared set to take over from there. Rio Grande Valley ripped off a 13-2 run to extend their lead to 107-99 with just under three minutes remaining in the game.

Vander Blue (tied with Nwaba for a team-high 22 points) wasn’t giving up. The high-scoring D-Fenders guard got a quick basket on a cut, then drew two free throws in transition after a steal to cut the deficit to 108-106 with just over a minute remaining in regulation.

After the D-Fenders forced an airball from the Vipers, point guard Josh Magette nailed a clutch, pull-up three to give Los Angeles a one-point advantage.

But after the Vipers missed a mostly-open three, Blue missed one of two free-throws, allowing big man Joshua Smith to send the game to overtime on a tip-in.

It was former Laker Darius Morris (29 points on 20 shots to go with seven assists) who would put the nail in the coffin for Los Angeles, coming up with a tough finish to give the Vipers a five-point lead with less than a minute remaining, and then making a technical free-throw to make it six.

After Nwaba missed a wild, spinning layup at the rim with 27.1 seconds left, the D-Fenders were forced to foul Morris, who made one of two attempts to extend the lead to seven, which proved to great a margin for Los Angeles to overcome.

The D-Fenders will return to Los Angeles for the second game of the series, Saturday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m. local time. If the D-Fenders win, they will force a third and final game in Los Angeles Monday, April 10.

You can follow this author on Twitter at@hmfaigen. All stats per stats.nbadleague.com.