When the Texas Legends’ (19-11) schedule came out for the 2017-2018 season, it didn’t take a detective’s eye to notice the abundance of road games at the top. 17 of 25 games to start the season took place away from Dr Pepper Arena, presenting a challenge that didn’t slide by veteran Justin Dentmon. Dentmon said before the opener way back in November that if the team could be solid on the road and then take care of business at home, the sky was the limit.
Well, here we are. It’s almost February and the Legends held their own on the road –winning ten to seven losses– and returned to Frisco on January 16th to open up a season-long five game home stand.
Coming on the heels of the G League Showcase, where the team went 2-0 and planted the seeds of the streak to come, Texas has run roughshod over the Memphis Hustle, Grand Rapids Drive, Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Reno Bighorns and on Thursday night, defeated the Sioux Falls Skyforce (15-16) 126-118.
The Miami Heat affiliate was the fifth and final victim of a perfect home stand that saw the Legends go 5-0, take over first place in the Southwest Division and pile their overall win streak up to seven games.
“We’re clicking,” impending NBA player Jameel Warney said after win number seven in a row. “We’re doing everything we need to do to win. At the end of the day when the buzzer sounds, we can’t be too complacent. We got two games on the road so we just want to win those games and keep going.”
The Legends beat the five visiting teams by an average of 13.2 points, including a 32-point win over Grand Rapids on the 19th. In the finale, Brandon Ashley double-double’d with 16 points and 13 rebounds (five offensive). While his streak of three block games came to an end, he did swat a shot to record one for the 12th consecutive game.
Returning from an extremely impressive one game cameo with the parent club Dallas Mavericks, Johnathan Motley also recorded a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds (five offensive).
Motley handed out four assists, as did his frontcourt mate Warney, who also scored 21 points and hauled in eight rebounds. On Tuesday, the Legends star big man had a special guest in the house.
Jeff Van Gundy, who coached Warney during his FIBA AmeriCup MVP summer as well as in the November FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, stopped by Dr Pepper Arena to see his players Warney and Donald Sloan. Warney affectionately refers to Van Gundy as “my guy” and Van Gundy has been relentlessly promoting the G League prospect during ESPN telecasts.
“It’s great. Like everybody else, (he) didn’t really know how good the players are in this league. We’re hungry. He had the up close and personal seat this summer, having G League players on his team. He has the respect and admiration of the G League and it shows how the league has improved and that it’s one of the best leagues in the world.”
Sloan and Jalen Jones each scored 19 points and Wade Baldwin IV rounded out the usual assortment of double-figure scorers with 15. Sloan continued to facilitate without flaw, totaling seven assists while Baldwin posted a season-high nine. Each guard also grabbed four rebounds and Baldwin dominated traffic with five steals.
The Legends shot 52 percent on 102 attempts, fancying their usual up-and-down pace with just-as-familiar efficiency.
All good things must come to an end, and so does this tremendously successful home stand. But it was well worth it on and off the court for Warney and company.
“You get to stay in your own bed (at home). You get accustomed to being here. It was great to have these two weeks and five games at home. Now we go on the road and will try to take care of business.”
That business is a quick midwest road trip that begins Saturday in Iowa against the Minnesota-affiliated Wolves (15-13) at 7:00 p.m. It’s the third and final regular season meeting between the two clubs, with each team winning on the road so far. If that holds true, Texas will look to exit Iowa with their eighth straight victory. There’s no reason to stop there, Warney said.
“I think we can win all our games. We’re playing like the best team in the league right now. We just gotta keep on playing, keep on trusting each other, keep on playing defense and at the end of the day keep on getting wins.”