Thurs., April 6, 2017 | 5:00 p.m. PT
State Farm Arena | Hidalgo, Texas
Watch: Facebook Live
On the D-Fenders: Los Angeles (34-16) has endured plenty of ups-and-downs throughout the year but still finished the season with its second-best win total in franchise history. As expected, team veterans and highly-rated prospects Vander Blue (24.8 pts, 5.1 reb, 3.0 ast), Josh Magette (15.8 pts, 4.5 reb, 9.4 ast) and Justin Harper (16.4 pts, 6.7 reb, 1.4 ast) have led the way. The D-Fenders rank second in the league with 118.2 points per game, also leading the way with a 1.59 assist-to-turnover ration. L.A. has a mark of 5-3 in conference semifinal matchups and are 6-5 as the road team in all-time playoff games.
On the Vipers: For all of the offensive firepower that L.A. has to offer, Rio Grande Valley (32-18) is the one team that may have the D-Fenders beat on the offensive end. RGV leads the league in points per game (120.1) and field goal percentage (.846). That effectiveness has been powered by players like former D-Fenders guards Darius Morris (20.0 pts, 4.3 reb, 6.4 ast), J.P. Tokoto (13.6 pts, 5.7 reb, 2.8 ast) and Chris Johnson (13.5 pts, 6.2 reb, 1.9 ast).
Matchup history: These two teams have never met in the postseason, but they have faced off 28 times in the regular season. The D-Fenders trail the all-time series, 13-15, including a 6-9 mark in road games. L.A. is 1-3 against RGV in 2016-17.
Roster watch: Each team will enjoy a dose of NBA talent in the series. For the D-Fenders, David Nwaba (14.1 pts, 6.9 reb, 40 games) was assigned by the Lakers for the third time on Wednesday, April 6. Meanwhile, the Vipers will have a pair of assignees in Houston’s Chinanu Onuaku (13.6 pts, 10.6 reb, 43 games) and the LA Clippers’s Sheldon McClellan (10.7 pts, 3.5 reb, 6 games). L.A.’s Julian Jacobs remains out with a right ankle sprain.
A look at the series: The series will shift to El Segundo following Thursday’s contest, as the D-Fenders play host to RGV for Game Two at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 8. If necessary, this Western Conference Semifinal round will conclude at the Toyota Sports Center at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 10.