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.
Magette onions with under 30 seconds to take the lead for the @DFenders, who now lead by 1 pic.twitter.com/G5iXAqAve0— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) April 7, 2017
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.
And now they're tied with 1.5 left after Joshua Smith's tip pic.twitter.com/7B6rFMsf6U— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) April 7, 2017
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.