Semifinal Matchup: No. 3 Austin Toros vs. No. 7 Canton Charge
Justin Dentmon’s flight back to real life was delayed on Monday.
He’d just scored 10 points with four assists for the Toronto Raptors on Sunday – his second trip to the NBA this year after two full years spent hollowing out defenses in the NBA Development League – but when it came time for the Raptors to pick him up for another 10-day contract, Toronto held off. So, Dentmon took his ticket home and hopped a flight back to Austin, Tex.
His flight delayed and his NBA career on hold yet again, the third-leading scorer in the 2011-12 NBA D-League season finally landed a little before 7:30 CT. He then drove straight to the Cedar Park Center, got changed and steered the Austin Toros to a berth in the NBA Development League semifinals.
Dentmon scored 12 points in only 16 minutes in the win, his first game with Austin since signing with Toronto on April 6. And maybe Austin would’ve won without him, but they’ll almost certainly need him to get through the semifinals (tipping off Thursday) – especially against a Canton team that just upset the Eastern Conference champ Springfield Armor.
The Toros came into the first round with a 32-win season behind it and only questions in front. Without Dentmon – who’d accounted for 30 percent of Austin’s scoring, if you factor in assists (along with his 22.8 ppg average) – the Toros still had talent, sure. Eric Dawson was there. So was Cory Joseph, the Spurs assignee, along with Flip Murray, the former NBA guard. They just didn’t have their leader.
Austin managed, though, rallying back from a Game 1 loss to drop the Charge in Game 2 and then shooting out to a 59-50 lead in the decisive Game 3 before Dentmon even checked in with 6:50 left in the second quarter.
But now he’s back, and the Toros once again look like the favorites to come out of the right side of the bracket into the NBA D-League Finals – largely because of what they did with Dentmon gone.
In his absence, Murray notched a team-high 19.3 points and 4.0 assists in Austin’s three first-round games. He out-shone virtually everyone else on the court, including Erie point guard and fellow NBA vet Keith McLeod, who upped his own Top Prospect status by averaging 15 points and 4.3 assists in the series.
And Murray wasn’t alone. From the wing, Cory Joseph tossed in 10 points, 6.7 rebounds and four assists. Forward Julian Wright continued his late-season ascent, exploding for 19 points and 9.3 rebounds in the three games after finishing the regular season with 17 points or more in six of his last seven games. Eric Dawson kept on wiping down the boards like he has all year, hauling in 15.7 rebounds a game to make up for a 39-percent mark from the field.
Throw in Squeaky Johnson, the one-time Hornets guard, and the Toros bring a team into the semis that’s fizzing with NBA talent (and, in many cases, NBA experience).
The Charge, for their part, can’t compare. But they couldn’t in the Springfield series, either.
Against an Armor team that featured three starters who’ve played in the NBA in 2011-12 – and two more that look like locks for Summer League invites – Canton nearly swept the series. And if Armor point guard JamesOn Curry didn’t throw daggers in the final minutes of the second game, they would have.
Instead, Canton just had to wait one more day. Then, in Game 3, the Charge erupted, shooting 56.2 percent from the floor and getting 19 points or more from four different players to knock off the No. 2 overall seed.
None of those players, mind you, was named Harangody. After carrying the Canton hopes down the stretch following an assignment down from Cleveland, Luke Harangody had gotten called back up to the Cavs for Saturday night’s game (where he had 16 points and 10 rebounds) before being sent down again on Sunday. And as Springfield collapsed on him, limiting him to seven points (with 10 rebounds, however), Harangody kept the ball moving and his teammates took care of the rest.
Antoine Agudio led all Canton players with 24 points – and only three of them from 3-point range, from a guy who scored 49 percent of his points from behind the arc in 2011-12. Swingman Kyle Gibson – the surprise of the series – came up with 23 points and eight boards, followed by Tyrell Biggs with 21 and T.J. Campbell with 19 (along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds).
Of the four, only Campbell comes close to cracking into the top tier of NBA D-League Prospects – and he’d certainly be there, if he stood just a little taller than 5-foot-9. Agudio doesn’t do much beyond shoot threes, although he does that better than anyone else. Gibson and Biggs need a little more consistency. But on Monday, these spare parts fit together perfectly.
And just like Bakersfield in the other semifinal, this is a Canton team that’s had a lot of time to get used to playing together. A lot of time to concoct some chemistry. And as they keep laying the foundation of a brand-new team, they couldn’t have picked a better time to start boiling over.
- Haran-Go-Dy Luke Harangody's already been assigned to the Charge three times, which is the maximum number of times that the Cavaliers can send him down. That means that if he comes back up to Cleveland at any point between now and the end of the season, he has to stay there.
- Scoring Styles: Canton shot 51.8 percent from the field in its first-round series, which put the Charge six percentage points higher than their regular season average (45.8), as seven of its10 players who got 10 or more minutes a game shot better than 50 percent. Now, with a few days off in-between rounds, expect the Charge to cool off a bit. However, they did take 72 foul shots in three games, showing a team willing to take the ball inside -- albeit one more than willing to send their opponents to the line, with Erie taking 105 for the series. Against a Toros team that thrives on motion, Canton's going to have to move a little more.
- Sticky Fingers: For all of Dentmon's playmaking ability, the point guard still has a propensity for turnovers. Murray, on the other hand, gave up the ball just four times across three games in the first round. Look for Austin coach Brad Jones to free up Dentmon to play No. 2 -- his more natural position -- at times, and keep the ball in Flip's capable hands.
|1. Eric Dawson, F||1. T.J. Campbell, G|
|2. Justin Dentmon, G||2. Dante Milligan, F|
|3. Ronald 'Flip' Murray, G||4. Tyrell Biggs, F|
|4. Julian Wright, F||4. Antoine Agudio, G|
|5. Carldell Johnson, G||5. Kyle Gibson, G|
|Read The Prospect Watch for more!|
|Cory Joseph, F||Luke Harangody, F/C|