D-Fenders Playoff Outlook

By Trevor Wong | @trevor_wong

The D-Fenders dropped their first home contest in nearly two months Wednesday evening, falling to Idaho 116-106. With eight games remaining, here's a roundup touching on L.A.'s defense and their playoff prospects as they head into the final stretch of the year.

Courtney Fortson
Guard Courtney Fortson has averaged 17 points and 5 rebounds per game.

Streak Snapped

After running off eight consecutive home wins that spanned nearly two months, the D-Fenders fell 116-106 to the Idaho Stampede on Wednesday evening at the Toyota Sports Center.

The Stampede, losers of four straight, including 10 of their last 13, led by as much as 23 late in the third quarter as six players finished in double figures.

"Defensively, we just didnít guard anybody," coach Reggie Theus said.

After winning five of their first six March games to climb within one game of the .500 mark at 19-20, the D-Fenders have now dropped three straight contests.

During this three-game skid, the defense has faltered a bit, with the D-Fenders allowing an average of 120 points on nearly 50 percent shooting.

Yet during that eight-game home win streak, it was their effort on that end of the floor that keyed the turnaround. Six opponents failed to top the century mark, while overall, they combined to shoot just 43.5 percent.

Center Jerome Jordan, acquired February 25, played a big role in that turnaround, but collectively, the team stepped up their defensive intensity and effort. Time and again, both the coaching staff and players alluded to defense as the foremost important key.

"Defense is what got us those eight wins in a row," Theus said. "But tonight we just didnít take care of our business defensively."

Playoff Prospects

Eight games remain in the regular season, but falling against Idaho puts L.A. (19-23) three games back of No. 8 seed Erie (23-21).

To conclude the month of March, the D-Fenders play back-to-back, home-away sets with Bakersfield (30-12, first place in West Division) and Santa Cruz (28-13, second in West Division). L.A. has defeated the Jam twice out of eight meetings Ė both wins coming at home Ė but remain winless in four matchups with the Warriors.

The D-Fenders then face Canton (26-17, first in East Division) to open the month of April and conclude the year with back-to-back road games at Idaho.

"Itís still doable," Theus said. "Our destiny is in our own hands. We have to stay together."

Looking Ahead

Tonight, the D-Fenders face the Reno Bighorns, a team that has lost 10 straight games, and like Idaho, are out of playoff contention. L.A. has won five of the six regular-season matchups thus far, but the Bighorns are a different team this time around.

Former D-Fenders Ronald Dupree (15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists with the team) and Orien Greene (9.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.1 steals with the team) are starting alongside each other at the forward spots. A familiar face in the middle for Reno is No. 5 overall prospect Samardo Samuels (20.5 points, 10.5 rebounds).

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT and can be streamed live on YouTube.