After splitting a pair of road games, the Texas Legends (21-12) had the middle portion of the week– Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday– off with back-to-back home games on the weekend agenda. First, on Friday, Texas welcomed the Chicago affiliated Windy City Bulls (13-19) and defeated the visitors 111-102.
A defensive start to the game proved a tad misleading as the high-scoring Legends still managed a healthy sum after a 21-point first quarter. They held Windy City to just 18 in the first 12 minutes and 43 in the first half.
“We definitely fed off each other,” Kyle Collinsworth said postgame. “It was good that we were able to start the game like that because we start slow offensively and we didn’t dig ourselves in a hole and get down. It kind of translated throughout the whole game.”
Though it’s only been a few days, Bob MacKinnon was working with some new faces on Friday night. Two-way player Johnathan Motley has been recalled with fellow two-way performer Jalen Joneson hand in Frisco. Additionally, Collinsworth returned to the Legends on assignment from his 10-day stint with the Mavs and Wade Baldwin IV dearly departed back to Portland with the Trail Blazers.
While some names changed, they are all still familiar to the organization and outside of a tepid start, there wasn’t any evidence of the contrary. A win keeps Texas at the apex of the Western Conference and an 11-4 record at Dr Pepper Arena gives the Legends the best home court advantage of the 26 in the G League.
“I’ve been in and out so I’m proud of the guys for winning,” Collinsworth may not be around for long. “It’s been good to come down and get wins, too. Winning always makes life better. Winning is the big stat and guys are playing the right way. It’s a credit to them. We’re playing good basketball, playing together and playing the right way.”
Winning shines a spotlight on the very reason they tie up the sneakers anyway. “Winning carries a lot of weight to get guys called up.”
Currently in his second 10-day contract, Collinsworth is a Legend…for now. With two 10-days used and both two-way spots occupied, the Mavs can still sign Collinsworth for the rest of the season.
In the meantime, he fooled around and found a triple-double.
“It felt like I was doing everything not to get it,” he joked after the win. “It’s about time. I was fortunate to get back on the free throw line and knock one down.”
Collinsworth, as you will recall, holds an NCAA record with 12 triple-doubles during his storied stay at BYU. This season, he’s posted stat lines on two different occasions that needed just an assist to give him his first triple-double in the pros.
Well, now he’s got one. Specifically, he put up 10 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds.
Triple-doubles and winning usually go hand-in-hand for the record holder.
“It’s a good mindset. I think we went 11-1 (at BYU) when I got triple-doubles. It’s just a stat for me, whenever I get close to that or have numbers like that, it means I’m active on both ends of the floor. When I rebound well, it gets everything else going. Defense and offense. It’s what I try to do. It’s usually a positive stat not only for me but for my teammates in getting a win.”
Fresh off being named to the midseason All-NBA G League team with Motley, Jameel Warney scored 17 points with six rebounds, notching a game-best plus-14 in his team-high 37 minutes.
The Legends were led in scoring by Warney’s FIBA teammate Donald Sloan, who recorded 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting. He also made three of four three’s and has drilled 24 from long distance in his last seven games.
The forward duo of Jones and Brandon Ashley delivered 18 and 16 points respectively with seven and six rebounds. Ashley also blocked two shots and has swatted a shot in 15 straight games, eight of those multi-block games and five of them of the three block variety.
Xavier Johnson supplied another multipurpose performance off the bench with 12 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes. He hit five of six attempts from the field.
Keith Hornsby continues to work his way back to 100 percent health and played 18 minutes, the most in his three games since returning to the rotation. Meanwhile JJ Avila used his 16 minutes to add 8 points and 8 rebounds in a united team attack.
In a league designed for relentless offense, defense remains a big priority for the Legends. Tonight, they held Windy City more than seven points below their defensive average, anchored by Collinsworth’s smothering on-ball defense. He held Bulls Two-way point guard Ryan Arcidiacono to just 5-of-15 shooting, pressuring him tight all game long.
“I just tried to make it hard for him. I turned him over a couple times (seven!) and just tried to get him out of his rhythm. He likes space, he likes being able to have vision so I just tried to take that away.”
The two day, two game home stand wraps up on Saturday night against the San Antonio affiliated Austin Spurs (21-13), who are just a half-game behind the Legends in the Southwest Division. For the second time in three Saturdays, Texas hosts a divisional rival with first place on the line. Previously, they defeated Rio Grande on January 20th, 144-141.