NBA D-League Playoff Preview: RGV Vipers vs. Iowa Energy

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Iowa Energy battled for the Central Division title for the past five months, so it's only fitting that they'll settle the score for good in the first round of the NBA D-League playoffs. Iowa won the division by a game and the season series 3-1, but both teams have taken on a much different look this April. Here's how they stack up:

The Breakdown: The style of play in this series may resemble your average NBA All-Star Game. The Vipers and Energy are two of the top three offenses in the NBA D-League, regularly playing games in the 120s, 130s or even 140s. In their four meetings this season, they've combined to launch 83 three-pointers (and 208 total shots) per game; RGV got up a league record SIXTY-FOUR when they last met two weeks ago.

As always, all numbers can be thrown out the window if the Vipers catch fire from downtown -- they can speed past any opponent when the shots are falling. But RGV actually defies the "live by the three, die by the three" mantra often associated with this style of play. The real keys to this series lie in other areas of the game.

Put simply, the Energy manhandled the Vipers throughout their four matchups this year, averaging 11 rebounds, 12 free throws and 12 points in the paint more per game, particularly in their 145-111 rout on March 26 that gave Iowa the upper hand in the Central Division race. Fortunately for RGV, their two matchup nightmares -- forward Othyus Jeffers and big man Jarvis Varnado -- are both currently in the NBA. That leaves Austin Freeman as Iowa's biggest threat to attack off the dribble, and puts the onus on bigs Jackie Carmichael and Augustus Gilchrist (combined 7.7 offensive rebounds in 42.2 mpg vs. RGV) to continue dominating inside.

Though Iowa has held RGV's two main bombers from Houston, Robert Covington and Troy Daniels, in check, it's big man Dario Hunt that could be the difference-maker. The Vipers' defense collapsed during his injury absence, and he posted 13.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in just 21.7 minutes per game against Iowa this year.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

RGV Vipers


Robert Covington
23.2 PPG

Troy Daniels
21.5 PPG

Darius Morris
6.7 APG

Highlights: Covington | Daniels | Morris

Iowa Energy


P. Christopher
44.6 3FG%

Austin Freeman
10.7 PPG

Curtis Stinson
7.1 APG

Highlights: Christopher | Freeman | Stinson


SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1Tuesday, April 8 RGV 146, Iowa 135Box Score
Game 2Saturday, April 12Iowa 145, RGV 142 (OT)Box Score
Game 3Tuesday, April 14RGV 131, Iowa 126Box Score