HIDALGO, Texas – The Los Angeles D-Fenders fell to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in an overtime shootout on Thursday at the State Farm Arena, 124-116.
The loss followed a gritty comeback effort, in which L.A pieced together a 10-0 run in the final three minutes to take the lead. Josh Magette connected on a three-pointer that put Los Angeles on top at 109-108 with 29.9 seconds to play in regulation to give the visitors the advantage. The result looked certain as Vander Blue stepped to the line for two free throws with 13.3 remaining in the game, but L.A.’s top scorer missed his second attempt after connecting on the first. The mishap set up a game-winning scenario for Thursday’s hosts. The game went to overtime after RGV’s Joshua Smith scored off of an offensive rebound with 1.5 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
The Vipers took control in the overtime period, outscoring L.A. 14-6. Rio Grande Valley did not miss a field goal or three-point attempt in the extra frame and also went 7-of-11 from the free throw line.
Los Angeles (34-16, 0-1) was paced by 22 points each from Blue and David Nwaba, who had been assigned by the Lakers on Wednesday evening. Forward Travis Wear contributed 17 points and seven rebounds, and Troy DeVries added 15 points. Magette finished with 12 points and seven assists, while Justin Harper and Andre Ingram each scored 12 points.
Rio Grande Valley (32-18, 1-0) enjoyed a batch of impressive offensive performances, including Darius Morris’s 29 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Forward Chris Johnson registered a double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, Isaiah Taylor added 24 points and nine assists, and center Chinanu Onuaku pulled down a combined 18 rebounds.
The showdown between two of the league’s top offenses went as could be expected, with both teams holding double-digit leads at some point in the contest. The game included 10 lead changes and four ties.
Rebounding proved to be perhaps the most costly statistical category in the showdown. RGV dominated the boards, pulling down 56 rebounds to L.A.’s 32. The D-Fenders tied their single-game playoff record for three-pointers in a playoff game, going 16-of-40 from long range.
Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinal matchup against Rio Grande Valley will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, at the Toyota Sports Center. The D-Fenders will need a win to keep their title hopes alive.