Albuquerque 119, Fort Worth 108
Albuquerque Wins 2006 D-League Championship
FORT WORTH, Texas, Apr. 22 – The Albuquerque Thunderbirds took advantage of a balanced scoring attack and held off a late Fort Worth rally to defeat the Flyers, 119-108, and win the 2006 D-League Championship on Saturday in front of 3,518 at the Forth Worth Convention Center.
The Thunderbirds 11th victory in its last 14 games gives coach Michael Cooper a championship at every level under the NBA umbrella. He won five NBA rings as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers and two more titles as head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
“We would have loved to have won this game back home in Albuquerque for our fans, but we will take it here in Fort Worth,“ said Cooper, who was the recipient of an icy Gatorade bath from his players in front of the T-Birds bench as the clock turned triple zeros. “About two weeks ago we hit a high point and rode it into today’s game.”
The T-Birds victory marked the fourth time in five years that the D-League champion has won the final game on the road. Fort Worth is the fourth team in five years to fail to place a postseason trophy next to the regular season crown in the trophy case.
“Everybody knew what it would take when we came in here, sticking to what has worked for us down the stretch,” said T-Birds point guard Tierre Brown, who scored 21 points and dished out 10 assists. “We know we have to share the ball and compete. That was the combination that worked for us late in the season and worked for us tonight.”
Albuquerque took a 58-46 lead at the halftime intermission. The 58 points was a D-League Finals record for points in a half, as was the final total of 119 for a game.
All eight players played for Albuquerque scored in double figures. Andreas Glyniadakis also scored 21 and grabbed nine rebounds. T.J. Cummings had 19, Rich Melzer 13 and Brandon Robinson 12 to lead the T-Birds. Tony Bland, Darren Brooks and Marcus Douthit chipped in 11. Douthit also collected 15 rebounds.
"Every player who got into the game scored in double figures and that is what team basketball is all about,” Cooper said. “We have had pretty much the same team throughout the year, so all it took was for us to start playing as a team.”
An old-fashioned three-point play by Fort Worth guard Keith Langford cut the margin to 105-97 with 2:57 left, but the Flyers would get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
“We knew Fort Worth can score points in a hurry,” Cooper said. “I called timeout so our guys could stay focused and understand we were still in good position.”
Fort Worth wasted a D-League postseason record 39-point performance by Langford, due to missing 15 free throws (32-47) and getting outrebounded 50-27. Albuquerque converted 23-of-28 (.821) from the line and 45-of-83 (.542) from the floor. The Flyers converted 50-percent (36-72) from the floor.
“We had too many distractions all week that kept the team from focusing,” Fort Worth coach Sam Vincent said. “When we would make a run we would turn the ball over and Albuquerque was able to capitalize.”
Kelenna Azubuike followed Langford with 17 points. Aaron Miles chipped in 16 and Rawle Marshall 15.