Rarely in the G League are teams kept under 20 points in a quarter. If NBA games are olympic sprinters, G League games are The Flash. Or Quicksilver. There are no Marvel vs. DC feuds here. But yeah, basketball. 20 points or less in a quarter is rare. What about 10?
Friday afternoon saw the Texas Legends (14-11) hold the Greensboro Swarm (8-18), affiliate of the Charlotte Hornets, to just nine points in the first quarter. Though the G League is essentially designed to showcase offense at a relentless pace, defense has been a point of emphasis for the Legends in the 2017-2018 season.
In this game and in front of a national TV audience, those goals were met. The Swarm would score only 93 points –they average 103.4 a game and no team in the league scores less than 99– in the second of two games the Legends participated in at the annual G League Showcase event. Greensboro stumbled to 38 percent shooting in a game they never led.
“We came out more aggressive than they did defensively and put a stop to everything they tried to do,” says forward J.J. Avila. “We executed defensively really well. I don’t know how many times a team has held another to that little points but it was impressive.”
Though the event serves as an epicenter of eyes and ears from all NBA teams, the Legends nevertheless went into showcase with one thing on their mind: winning.
Legends star Jameel Warney told me prior to Wednesday’s game that he would measure the trip to Mississauga by one benchmark alone. “Two wins. That’s the most important thing on my mind right now is two wins. It doesn’t matter how we do it. Just get those two wins and get ready for that long homestand we have coming up.”
Well, here we are days later and the Legends did indeed go 2-0.
In the finale, they defeated the Swarm 109 to 93, never trailing and ahead by 17 points after just 12 minutes. As per usual, both Warney and fellow big man Johnathan Motley recorded double-doubles, Warney with 10 points and 12 rebounds (seven offensive) and Motley exploding for game-highs with 23 points and 18 rebounds. Mot also blocked four shots and is blocking almost three shots a game in the new year while Jameel again played facilitator as a big man with four assists.
The two all-star and league-leading big men set the table for Avila to compliment them off the bench. “I just watch what they do and see the rhythm of the game, the tone that they set. We play differently but I always tell them every time I get in there I’m looking for you guys and I’ll have your back on defense. They’re good guys, good teammates and we all understand how to play basketball and that really helps us.”
The Legends one-upped themselves as a team from Wednesday to Friday, having seven players score in double figures as opposed to “just” six. With the two big men joined Brandon Ashley, who had his second consecutive strong game with 15 points and seven rebounds while making seven of eight shots.
Jalen Jones rejoined the team and came off the bench to deliver 15 points and seven rebounds. The last time we saw Jones was last week when he was “visiting” as a New Orleans Pelicans two-way player. After a waiver claim, he’s officially a Dallas Mavericks two-way player.
Led by Jones, Bob MacKinnon’s second unit was once again very strong in the victory. Bryson Fonville scored six points and dished out a season-high seven assists. Avila rounded out the seven double digit scorers with an even 10 aided by a pair of three-pointers. He also pulled down five boards as the Legends outrebounded the Swarm 63 to 47.
Jones, Fonville and Avila all drilled a pair of three’s off the bench, sealing a well-rounded and wire-to-wire victory.
“We all know what we can do from top to bottom of our team,” Avila says about the depth of the team. “We know that we need to keep the energy up so we’re always talking to the first group and keeping them engaged, keeping the whole bench engaged. We go in there always ready to play and pride ourselves on going in and not losing any momentum.”
The momentum from Showcase will be coming back to Frisco with the Legends as they get set to duel against the Memphis Hustle (10-17), G League affiliate of the Grizzlies. As an expansion team, this is the first time the Legends franchise will square off against the red clad Hustle. The game begins at 7:00 PM CT and kicks off a five game homestand, the longest of the season for the Legends.