The final game of the regular season promised fireworks before a basketball even bounced. Per tradition, the Texas Legends gave away a 2017 Buick Encore during the 25th and final home game of the 2017-2018 regular season. A lucky fan turned the correct key in the ignition, starting the pristine, white car and erupted Dr Pepper Arena into congratulatory (and probably some jealous) applause.
On the floor, the Legends (29-21) used a 27-19 first quarter jump to get ahead early and defeat the Memphis Hustle (21-29) 111-103.
The Legends outrebounded the Grizzlies affiliate 61 to 47, an effort led by Cory Jefferson, who finished with dual season-high totals of 32 points and 15 rebounds (five offensive). Jefferson made 14-of-21 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers. He is firing on all cylinders and looks completely zoned in as part of the Legends forthcoming playoff attack.
In front of visiting family, Keith Hornsby continued his extremely hot play. It seems Hornsby has found the groove that he possessed prior to his shoulder injury, and he has re-inserted himself as one of Texas’ most valuable offensive weapons.
“I’m 100 percent healthy,” the second-year player said. “I’m feeling quick, fast and agile. Obviously it took me a little while to get acclimated again, but the only way to get back is if you get the chance to kind of see yourself mess up, see some of the things happen and learn on the go.”
In both seasons as a member of the Legends, Hornsby has been a part of the franchise’s winningest seasons. Last year, that number was 25. This season, it is 29 and a trip to the postseason.
“We’ve had a lot of good players come through here the past two years,” Hornsby said. “It means a lot because I see how hard the staff works and how hard the coaches work. It’s just good to win and give them recognition that way. They deserve the success that we can show on the court.”
Back with Legends (for now), Jameel Warney supplied a lucky 13 points and 13 rebounds (four offensive), also dishing out six assists. Warney adapts to any player around him as well as any, and his newfound chemistry with the fellow big Jefferson resembles the all-star tactics he had going with Johnathan Motley.
Brandon Ashley struggled with his shot but was a remarkable plus-21 during his 32 minutes. Warney earned a pair of steals while Jefferson swatted two shots.
The constant change of personnel may or may not have brought Hornsby back from the bench into a prominent starters role, his health may have done that for him anyway. But whatever the reason, he is once again one of the Legends’ main options.
“It’s what you want,” Hornsby says of his rediscovered role. “I’ve been a scorer so to be able to get more opportunities, it’s the only way to really get better. Obviously, just take the role and run with it and see how things go, just try not to put too much pressure on myself.”
A playoff berth was clinched earlier this week, and tonight the Legends found out what seed they will be. That number is five, pitting them against the fourth seeded Rio Grande Valley Vipers (29-21) in the quarterfinals.
It seems fitting that the 2018 G League Playoffs, the Legends first appearance in the postseason since their inaugural 2010-2011 season, will see them square off against the division rival. The two teams have the same record but the Rockets affiliate won the season series 3-1 and will host the one-and-done game in the league’s new 12-team expanded playoffs.
The highly anticipated game is Tuesday night at 7 p.m. and the game can be viewed on Twitch.