Austin 95, Idaho 89
AUSTIN, Texas, April 21 -- The Austin Toros banked on a big third quarter to beat the Idaho Stampede, 95-89, to take a 1-0 lead in their best of three series for the NBA Development League championship on Monday at the Austin Convention Center.
The Toros can wrap up the series and bring home the championship with a victory on Thursday. The series shifts to Boise, Idaho for the final two games.
Justin Bowen led the Toros with a game-high 25 points. Squeaky Johnson subbed for starting point guard Andre Barrett, who was hurt earlier in the game and sat out much of the game, contributed 14 points and six assists. Ian Mahinmi added 13 points while former NBA campaigner Darvin Ham provided veteran leadership and posted a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The Stampede were led by Cory Violette, who scored 20 points and hauled down 14 rebounds. Jason Ellis contributed 15 points and nine rebounds, Luke Jackson chipped in with 15 and Roberto Bergersen 13. NBA veteran Randy Livingston notched 10 points and nine assists for Idaho.
The Toros brought the crowd out of their seats in the opening 20 seconds of the contest when Josh Gross put the exclamation point on a Barrett pass. The alley-oop dunk gave the Toros a 2-0 lead, their lone advantage until six minutes remained in the half.
Both teams made only of their first five field goal attempts, until Idaho’s Roberto Bergersen who connected on just four of 16 shots in the Stampede's semifinal game victory over the L.A. D-Fenders, started to heat up. The former Boise State standout hit three first quarter triples to lead the Stampede to a 26-14 lead after the first 12 minutes of the game.
“We came out of the gate rushing at first and Idaho was able to build a large lead,” said Austin’s Bowen. “We were getting back fast instead of running our offense.”
In the second quarter, Austin’s Josh Gross caught fire. The 6-5 forward from UNC–Greensboro hit a pair of 3s in just over a one-minute span to pull Austin to within one point, 30-29.
Midway through the second quarter, Austin found its stride. Barrett who spent four seasons in the NBA, knifed through the lane and got the off-balance lefty layup to drop. Bowen then stole the inbounds pass, slid the ball to Mahinmi who threw it down with authority making the score 35-34.
“It got our momentum going because we were picking up full court,” Barrett said. “It got the crowd up.” The sequence gave the Toros its first lead since the opening minute of the game.
Idaho led by two points at the break, 44-42.
In the third quarter, Idaho went cold, hitting just five of 18 shots from the floor. The Toros, meanhwile, ended the quarter with a pair of 3-pointers by hometown basketball hero Kenton Paulino, who attended nearby University of Texas, and Johnson. The quarter ended at 68-59 in favor of the Toros, who outscored the Stampede in the quarter, 26-17.
“I think the turning point of the game was when K.P. (Kenton Paulino) and Squeak (Johnson) made those big shots,” Barrett said.
Paulino hit a triple to begin the final quarter and when Bowen connected on a left side jumper with 10:36 left, the Toros had extended their lead to 73-61, their largest of the game to that point.
Austin’s lead hovered in double digits for most of the quarter but Violette’s 20th point, a left side jumper drew the visiting Stampede to within seven points with five and a half minutes to play. Johnson starred late in fourth quarter with a driving layup with 5:09 left; a right side jumper with 2:37 remaining, and a 12 foot jumper with 1:10 left which put the game on ice.
“It’s big – we’re going to their house, so the pressure is on them at home,” Barrett said. “For us this win at home was really big. To go and play away and all you have to do is win one game, that works in our odds.”
The series moves to Boise, Idaho for Game 2 which can be seen Thursday at 9:30 pm ET on NBA Futurecast (nba.com/futurecast) and NBA TV. “It’s going to be the hardest game of the series,” Bowen said. “Idaho is a great team and they have good chemistry.”
If a third game is necessary it will played on Friday also at 9:30 pm ET, and can be seen on NBA Futurecast and NBA TV.