With both teams’ season on the line, Rio Grande Valley simply came out with more energy than the D-Fenders.
The Vipers jumped out to a 19-point lead in the first half, which the D-Fenders nearly clawed out of. But the hole was too large, as they fell 140-127.
With two of RGV’s top players — Isaiah Taylor and Chinanu Onuaku — being called up to the Houston Rockets, the D-Fenders conceded to taking their opponents too lightly.
Instead, Sheldon McClellan torched the court for 33 points (9-of-12 field goals, 12-of-12 free throws), while former Laker Darius Morris had 28 points and Chris Johnson added 27 with seven triples.
McClellan scored 16 points in the second quarter alone, which the D-Fenders struggled to recover from. However, behind 24 second-half points from Josh Magette, they eventually came to the doorstep of a comeback.
Magette led them on a 15-5 run to bring the deficit down to one with only four minutes left.
But RGV pushed back ahead and iced the game with free throws to set up a Western Conference Finals matchup with Oklahoma City.
Magette finished the night with 30 points, 14 assists and five 3-pointers, while Vander Blue put up 29 points despite fouling out.
Lakers assignee David Nwaba tallied a 26-point, 10-rebound double-double, as the D-Fenders’ season came to an abrupt close after cobbling together the second-best regular-season record in franchise history at 34-16.