The lower-seeded Austin Toros pushed Game 1 of the NBA D-League Finals to overtime despite early foul trouble and losing starting forward, Eric Dawson 35 seconds into the game at the Cedar Park Center Tuesday night. The Toros fell, 109-101 to the Los Angeles D-Fenders who set a league record with 38 wins this season and came into the playoffs as the top seed. Austin will have to win two consecutive games in LA in the best-of-three series to bring home their first D-League Championship.
Toros coach, Brad Jones was philosophical about his team's chances of winning two games in LA, "We'll see what happens when we get to L.A. A lot of people don't think we have a chance [of winning two in row in L.A.], but the guys in that locker room do."
Austin had six players score in double figures lead by Terrance Woodbury (25 pts 11 reb), but it was not enough as D-Fenders forward, Malcolm Thomas grabbed a NBA D-League Finals record 25 rebounds and put in 21 points. Elijah Milsap led all scorers with 33 points including a Finals record, 15 free throws.
Dawson suffered a concussion at the start of the game when he caught an elbow to the head and hit the floor hard. He did not return to the game. When asked about Dawson's status for Game Two, Jones said he was glad Dawson was ok and the team would have to wait and see if he will be cleared by doctors to play prior to Thursday's game in L.A. To make matters worse, Julian Wright and league MVP Justin Dentmon got into early foul trouble forcing Jones to go to the bench early against the big and physical D-Fenders who out rebounded the depleted hosts, 62-42.
The game was close all night, with the Toros gaining a five point edge with five minutes to go behind a hot third quarter by Dentmon.
Jones knew his team was going to be in for a tough game, "...they're a big strong team...there's a reason why they won 38 games this season and set a new league record."
The game was close all night, with the Toros gaining a five point edge with five minutes to go behind a hot third quarter by Dentmon. Wright scored nearly all of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to give Austin a five point lead with five minutes to go but foul trouble (LA outscored Austin at the free throw line 39-18) and some lucky bounces gave the D-Fenders the win.
The Toros relocated to the Cedar Park Center last season after playing in the Austin Convention Center since 2005 when they became Austin's first professional basketball team when the Columbus Riverdragons first moved the club to Austin and renamed them the Toros. In 2007, the San Antonio Spurs acquired the Toros, and Austin became the second franchise to be owned by an NBA team after the Los Angeles Lakers bought the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
The LA D-Fenders came back to the D-League in a big way this season after being inactive last year while the club finalized a permanent new location at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. LA played their home games at the Staples Center, the Lakers home court since their inception in 2006 before settling on their current home.