Two of the G League’s highest-scoring teams squared off in Prescott Valley, Arizona on Wednesday night. The second and third best offenses in the league –the Texas Legends (28-20) and Northern Arizona Suns (21-27) both average over 118 points per game– certainly did not disappoint, and it was the Legends that came out on top, 139-137.
After securing their first playoff berth since their inaugural season on Tuesday night, the Legends journeyed west for their 25th and final road game of the season. Two prolific offenses provided nonstop fireworks, combining for 87 fourth quarter points.
Point guard Duke Mondy turned in a career night, scoring 13 points in the first quarter and 22 in the first half before finishing with a team-high 29 for the evening. It is a career-high and his first game of 20 or more points with Texas.
Along with his memorable scoring game, the passing connoisseur was up to his usual assisting ways, handing out seven assists. He punctuated his career night by shooting 11-of-16 from the field and adding five free throws.
From the backcourt to the frontcourt, another recent addition to the organization, Cory Jefferson, also set a new high mark for the season with 28 points. Jefferson was remarkably efficient as well, shooting 10-of-14. Most impressive, though, was his near-perfect 5-of-6 3-point shooting display.
Never a volume shooter from beyond the arc, Jefferson has jumped right into coach Bob MacKinnon’s system with undying confidence and is not just shooting three’s, but taking good ones and knocking them down.
“It’s something I’ve been working on since I got into the league,” Jefferson says of the long distance jumper. “Some teams I’m not able to display it with, but being out here with Coach Mac, he’s putting me in a position to display the shot and show I have that ability.”
Through eight games, the former Baylor Bear has shot 22 3-pointers and made 10, a fantastic 46 percent. The Legends system, run by MacKinnon, has fit Jefferson perfectly.
“It’s good to have a coach that is confident in you and knows your abilities,” Jefferson added. “He encourages you to shoot whether you’re on or off.”
Career-highs were not starter exclusive on Wednesday. Jordan Downing came off the bench and used a hot second quarter and four 3-pointers to record a career-high 18 points.
Michael Qualls chipped in 15 points, not a career-high, but his best total to date with the Legends. Three of those points came on a three-quarter heave at the end of the half that dramatically banked right in, giving the Legends a cushion going into the locker room.
Brandon Ashley added 21 points, continuing to anchor a team that has had a plethora of call-ups and personnel changes in recent weeks. Keith Hornsby rounded out the six double-figure efforts with 13 of his own, also recording three steals.
Like Ashley and Hornsby, J.J. Avila keeps on making the most of his expanded role. Avila had eight points and 10 rebounds. Downing (six) and Qualls (five) also crashed the boards hard.
Both teams shot a symmetrical 48-of-92 from the field, but the Legends had one less 3-pointer (17 to 18), making up for it in total free throws (26 to 23).
The win at Northern Arizona bumps Texas to 13-12 on the road for the season, locking up an over .500 finish away from home, where they are 15-8 with two to go. Two games separate the Legends from their first postseason trip since 2010-1011, and although he is new to the organization, Jefferson is excited to join the franchise for a championship run.
“It’s always good to be in the playoffs. Being on this team, it’s a great group of guys. I just got here but they have a good thing going and I just want to continue to help them.”
The first of those two remaining games is a big one. The Legends will host the Houston Rockets-affiliated Rio Grande Valley Vipers (28-20) on Friday night in the 2017-2018 season’s penultimate matchup. Rio Grande leads the season series 2-1 but the Legends won the last match 144-141 on January 20th.
Tipoff arrives at 7:30 p.m.