Down by as many as 19 on Saturday night at the Comerica Center, the Texas Legends refused to go gently into that good night and came all the way back against the Agua Caliente Clippers to win their last home game of the season 106-103.
The Legends (16-32) outscored the Clippers (25-22) 27 to 15 in the fourth quarter, avenging a loss to the same Agua Caliente team just 24 hours earlier.
Nate Mason led an explosive bench effort with 20 points including 12 in the fourth quarter as the Legends second unit erupted for 57 points. His final basket with 27.8 seconds put the Legends up 104-103 and served as the decisive bucket.
Mason set career-high’s across the board at 20 points, six rebounds and 9-of-18 shooting.
While the win-loss record may not jump off the page, Legends coach Bob MacKinnon speaks without hesitation about all the good things that have happened this season.
“Consider the fact that we’ve had 30 players play in a game for us this year --which set a league record-- we had four players buyout their contract and go overseas --also a league record-- and we’ve had Mavs two-way players developing,” MacKinnon said. “Ray Spalding was with us and now look last night he plays 15 minutes for the Phoenix Suns.”
Vander Blue added 12 points off the bench and went 4-of-5 from the free throw line. He had a perfect pair of free throws in the final moments to give the Legends a three-point cushion, their eventual margin of victory. The NBA veteran is yet another name added to the mix of players MacKinnon has mixed in this year.
“We’ve had multiple guys on assignments from other teams,” MacKinnon added. “Frank Jackson, Kenrich Williams, Gary Trent. They all improved while they were here. From a development standpoint and from a community standpoint, I think we’ve had a tremendous year.”
Xavier Rathan-Mayes shot just 5-of-18 but did have 16 points and also dished out five assists. It’s the 17th time in 23 games he has recorded at least five assists.
Keith Hornsby had 10 points and knocked down a pair of 3’s while Kostas Antetokounmpo overcame some early foul trouble to put up an equal seven points and seven rebounds.
Rathan-Mayes and Antetokounmpo also swiped two steals as did Xavier Johnson who also posted eight points and four rebounds.
Asauhn Dixon-Tatum returned to action and added to the impressive Legends bench production with eight points, seven rebounds and also had two steals.
Daryl Macon scored eight points and Donte Ingram put up seven. All 11 Texas players had at least four points in the win.
The Legends forced 21 turnovers, turning it over themselves just 10 times.
“It’s been very rewarding (this year),” MacKinnon said of the various learning curves he is helping orchestrate throughout the Texas roster. “We’ve had a lot of rookies and it’s hard to win with rookies. Winning is not what the Mavs told us this is about. It’s about player development and developing young guys.
“On our roster right now we have Donte Ingram whose gotten better as the year’s gone on. You have Nate Mason who just joined us a month ago and he’s getting better and led us in scoring (Saturday). Daryl (Macon) and Kostas (Antetokounmpo) and the improvements they’ve made. Ray Spalding, too.”
Former Legends Johnathan Motley and J.J. Avila had 19 points, 11 rebounds and 12 points for the Clippers, respectively.
“I think we’re getting better as the season goes,” MacKinnon said. “We’re not fading by any stretch. It’s exciting to be honest. Everyone is like ‘oh are you looking forward to your season being over’ and I’m like ‘no I wish we had more games.’”
Just two games remain in the 2018-2019 season for the Legends and they are both on the road. First up is the finale of a four-game season series with the division rival Austin Spurs (19-28). Tipoff arrives on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM CT as the Legends look for a clean 4-0 sweep.