On Wednesday night in Hidalgo, Texas, an in-state rivalry played out the first of four matchups coming in the 2017-2018 season. The Rio Grande Valley Vipers (9-3) got the best of the Texas Legends (4-5) and won the first bout 130 to 126. After starting the season 0-3, the Rockets affiliate has won nine straight games, good for the longest streak in the G League (Fort Wayne has won eight in a row).
A closely contested game from the go, the Legends brought a lead into the fourth quarter but couldn’t escape State Farm Arena with it. While the game was lost, the night belonged to Texas star Justin Dentmon.
The titular player rang up an incredible 48 points against Rio Grande. Dentmon missed a few minutes in the third quarter with a minor injury but still managed to play a team-high 37 minutes, shooting 15-of-28 from the field, 7-of-16 from three and 11-of-13 at the charity stripe.
“It was just a really hard elbow,” Dentmon says recuperated. “I kind of blacked out for a second.”
With this herculean effort, the veteran point guard stands first in the G League in scoring at 28.9 per and continues to make his reputable case for a looming NBA call-up.
“Really it’s a credit to coach throwing plays at me while I’m hot. When I’m going I’m going. Me, I like to score in spurts but at the same time take what the defense gives me. If I don’t take what they’re giving me then I catch myself forcing things. I’ve been going over film the last few games trying to figure out what I can do to shoot a better percentage and I think it’s really just taking what the defense gives me and watching how they play me.”
Dentmon had a 21-point third quarter in Saturday’s win over Salt Lake City and credits his recent run to his studious habit of checking out the film reel, something he was very encouraged by after the game this weekend.
“I liked what I saw. I saw that I was attacking the basket a little more. That’s what I feel like I should start doing more, not settling for three’s. I know I can shoot but I got to start putting heat on the defense. That helps other guys get open and helps my bigs get more offensive rebounds and more putbacks. I just got to pick and choose my spots.”
Speaking of said bigs, two-way player Johnathan Motley recorded his third straight double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds and has had at least 21 points and nine rebounds in each of his last six games.
The team also welcomed back Donald Sloan and Jameel Warney from their successful 2-0 stint at the FIBA Americas Qualifiers, the former putting up a Legends season-high eight assists and the latter grabbing 10 rebounds to meet his season average, which is fifth in the league.
Brandon Ashley strung together another very productive outing, registering 15 points and eight rebounds as well as a block. Fellow starter Kyle Collinsworth went with seven points, eight rebounds and four assists while Keith Hornsby moved to the bench but still provided a plus-10 advantage in his 25 minutes.
The road trip stays within the Texas borders as the club ventures to Austin for a 730 PM CT tilt against the Spurs (8-3) on Friday night. It will be the second of four “Love Those Legends” tours this season, taking fans on the road south to cheer on the team.
The first event was a rousing success as the team defeated the Spurs on opening night in early November with a legitimate home-court advantage away from home.