With their season on the line, the D-Fenders rose to the occasion and hit a pair of clutch buckets to stave off elimination in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Tied at 116 with 52.5 seconds left, Justin Harper sunk the go-ahead 3-pointer while sliding on his back to mid-court, setting the D-Fenders up for a 126-124 victory.
Los Angeles and Rio Grande Valley will duel one more time on Monday at 7:30 PT.
Vander Blue led the way for the D-Fenders with 26 points, while Harper made some huge plays on both sides of the ball with 24 points and five steals.
The D-Fenders set the scene early on by rolling out to a 9-0 lead. They worked their lead up to 14 at the end of the third quarter before the Vipers made their moves.
Led by an enormous fourth quarter from Isaiah Taylor, who scored 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting in the final period, RGV tied it up with less than a minute left.
After Harper’s big shot, the Vipers brought their deficit back down to one before Josh Magette — who had 15 points and 11 assists — knocked down a step-back 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock.
But RGV still wasn’t done, as Kyle Wiltjer attempted a triple at the buzzer that would have won the game and eliminated L.A.
However, Wiltjer — who had 23 points, 10 rebounds and six 3-pointers — airballed the attempt.
With the D-Fenders hosting the winner-take-all Game 3 on Monday, it will remain to be seen if Lakers assignee David Nwaba (20 points, nine rebounds) will be on hand for the playoff battle.
Either way it promises to be a fiery battle between the league’s top scoring teams, as the D-Fenders look for one more win against the likes of Wiltjer, Taylor (35 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds) and former Laker Darius Morris (21 points).