In Los Angeles on Wednesday night, the Texas Legends (24-22) continued their season-long six game road trip with a comeback victory against the D-Fenders (32-14), affiliate of the L.A. Lakers. The class of the Western Conference led by as many as 18 before the half until Andre Dawkins (16 points off the bench) hit a three-pointer to trim the lead to 15, 76 to 61.
Halfway through the third quarter, Texas began their run but still faced a nine-point deficit heading into the fourth. In the final period, the visiting Legends outscored Los Angeles 37 to 24 and beat one of the D-League’s finest on the road.
Jameel Warney continued to tear it up and was nearly perfect Wednesday night. The big man in the middle achieved 33 points and eight rebounds (three offensive). He needed just 15 shots to get to 33 points, and made 13 of them.
“My job is to be great in the post,” says Warney. “My teammates put me in great positions to succeed. The coaching staff has great plays for me to get the ball where I want to. At the end of the day, it’s all about me being aggressive and ultimately making shots.”
The Stony Brook alum also did something that coaches can only dream of their big men: he went to the free throw line and converted on all seven of his attempts.
“Coach MacKinnon pushes me everyday about big guys making free throws and making your average better than what it could be. If you make two more shots, 17 is better than 15. He makes me shoot a lot of free throws at practice, more than the other guys, so it’s great for me to keep on getting reps. I’m glad I went seven for seven because that means more points.”
Fellow frontcourt member Stephane Lasme was just as economical. Lasme made 10-of-11 shots for himself en route to 23 points and 11 rebounds (four offensive). The 6-foot-8 power forward also sank all three of his three-pointers.
“It’s great (to play with him). He’s a great defender. Every time the defense switches the ball screen, I can always trust that he’s probably gonna block the shot or alter the shot. He’s playing well on offense, too. But he’s our leader on defense. We hear his voice every game. Ultimately he’s the heart and soul of this team right now. I’m happy to play with him, he’s a great teammate.”
Pierre Jackson notched a 13 point, 10 assist double-double and has taken on a prime facilitator role late in the season. An elite scoring point guard, the former and future NBA player has run Coach MacKinnon’s offense exceptionally since returning from injury. His 7.6 assists per game rank third in the league and he’s averaging 8.8 a night over his last nine contests. It was his sixth game of the season with 10 or more assists and second in March.
Ben Gordon scored 19 (5-of-9 from three) and C.J. Williams 10 to give all five starters double figures in scoring. The team made 49 out of exactly 100 shots for an easily calculated 49 percent shooting. Anchored by Warney’s perfect showing at the free throw line, the team totaled 17-of-19 (89 percent). More impressive is the three-point barrage; Texas hit at a 40 percent clip (17-of-42) from downtown. With the season winding down –the Legends have four games left– the games still mean as much as if the team were starting anew.
“At the end of the day, we still have more games to play. It’s just another chance for you to be seen by NBA scouts or whoever you want to be seen by. We had a lack of effort shown in Reno (Monday) so we just wanted to come back today and play well. We got a win against a good team that’s going to the playoffs. We have a game tomorrow so we have to kind of put this game behind us and have a game plan for tomorrow now.”
Like Warney notes, the season-long six game road trip picks right back up on Thursday night in Arizona. The Legends will face off against the Phoenix-affiliated Northern Arizona Suns (21-24), looking to win the season series three games to one. Tip-off comes at 8:30 CT.