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Fayetteville 106, Albuquerque 89

Balanced Attack Leads Patriots Past T-Birds

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., March 31 – Detroit Pistons rookie Amir Johnson scored 21 points, while grabbing 10 rebounds and three steals, to lead the Fayetteville Patriots to a 106-89 win over the Albuquerque Thunderbirds in NBA Development League action at the Crown Coliseum Friday night. Five Patriots hit in double figures as Fayetteville improved to 15-30. Albuquerque dropped to 23-21.

The Patriots started quickly, building an 11-point lead late in the first period. Johnson piled up 12 points in the frame, at one point scoring 10 straight. The Thunderbirds fought back behind the perimeter shooting of Rich Melzer and TJ Cummings, actually taking a brief lead with just under two minutes remaining in the half. But Fayetteville quickly shut the door and carried a 55-51 lead into the break.

Former North Carolina standout Jawad Williams, who just joined the team on Thursday, entered the game in the second and posted 10 quick points. Williams played this season in Spain, and just returned to the U.S. this week.

“Jawad had a great game, just getting off the plane,” said Patriots coach Mike Brown. “He was able to get just one practice under his belt, but these guys are basketball players. This is what they do.”

Ryan Randle led the charge from the paint in the third and Fayetteville stretched the lead back to 10. Within the first three minutes of the fourth it was 17, and the Thunderbirds weren’t able to back in it.

“We just played great team defense tonight,” Brown said. “Especially in the second half. We gave up just 38 points in the half. That’s pretty good against this team.”

The Patriots are out of the playoff picture, but they are 9-6 since the first of March and 8-1 at home in that span.

“I think that’s just the thing working out that way,” Brown said. “It’s not the building. We just happened to be on the road when all the injuries started and we were shorthanded.

“And even though we’re not in the postseason, these guys are playing to make an impression with the scouts. This game was on NBA TV. They’re getting ready for summer league and vet camp. They still have a lot to play for.”

Johnson’s Detroit teammate Alex Acker added 20 points for Fayetteville. Williams and Randle finished with 16 each and Darnell Miller had 12. Melzer led Albuquerque with 19. Marcus Douthit added 16 and Tony Bland had 14.

The two play again for the least time this season on Saturday at the Crown. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.