D-Fenders Try To Slow Down Stampede

Over the last two games, the D-Fenders have been plagued by slow starts.

In their last home game against Santa Cruz, L.A. allowed the Warriors to score the first 11 points. At Santa Cruz on Tuesday, the deficit was as much as 19 points in the opening frame. Both times, however, the D-Fenders rallied to have a chance to win at the end of both contests.

Starting slow against an Idaho Stampede squad that boasts an 8-1 record is something the D-Fenders can ill afford, though.

“They have three very, very talented players that could be in the NBA,” coach Bob MacKinnon said. “When you have three players of that magnitude and you surround them with other very solid players, you’re going to be tough to beat.”

Pierre Jackson, Dee Bost and Richard Howell headline an Idaho team that had run the table before falling to the Bakersfield Jam on Wednesday. Jackson, the No. 1 overall prospect on the NBA D-League Watch Board , leads the league in scoring at 30.9 points per game. He has topped the 40-point mark twice through the first month of the season, including a 49-point effort on Dec. 14 at Fort Wayne.

“It’s no secret what he’s been doing all season,” guard Andre Ingram said. “That’s priority number one. We have to be ready not just for him, but their whole team. They’re 8-1 for a reason. It’s not just one guy.”

Though Jackson might be the center of attention because of his scoring prowess, his backcourt mate, Bost, leads the league in assists at 9.7 per game. Howell, meanwhile, ranks first in the league in rebounds at 12.1 per game. Both Bost and Howell were in training camp with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The D-Fenders, however, will also have a new face on the court with NBA experience as well: James Southerland. Acquired via a successful waiver claim on Thursday, Southerland said he is excited to be in Los Angeles and is eager to showcase his abilities in such a player-friendly system that the D-Fenders use.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys growing up that do the same thing as me and do well in the system,” Southerland said. “It’s a high scoring offense and you don’t really have to stretch yourself out too much. You’re going to get open looks, so you can focus on other things.”

Ingram believes Southerland slides right into the offense with the way the team wants to play. Even after limited practice time with each other, the players noted his ability to score the ball.

“We know he can shoot the ball,” Ingram said. “He fits right in with our system. We want to stretch defenses out so we can get drives and James is perfect for that.”

Adding Southerland to an offense that ranks fourth in the league in points per game (113.5) hasn’t been one of the problems for the D-Fenders. Sustaining a level of energy and activity for the full 48 minutes is something the team is still trying to find. The coaching staff has been looking for that type of play and maintains it’s a key factor against Idaho, as well as moving forward.

“We need to have a consistent effort and consistent multiple efforts,” MacKinnon said. “This is a total team thing we have to correct. Each person has to be on a mission.”

The players echoed similar sentiments.

“We just have to find a way to do it,” Ingram said. “With the mindset of the group we have, I have no doubts we’ll clear that up. It’s how do we come out and start like we seem to end every game. We have to get it together and come out and do it.”

Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. PT.