Notes on Game One of the 2013 D-League Finals: Scott Machado, Toure Murry, Glen Rice, Jr. & Jeremy Tyler

Scott Machado shot 4-for-6 from the 3-point line in the Santa Cruz Warriors' loss in Game One of the 2013 D-League Finals. - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The Santa Cruz Warriors lost to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 112-102, in Game One of the 2013 D-League Finals. The following are just some notes on the key players in the game.

Kaiser Permanente Arena might not be Oracle Arena, but the atmosphere was great to start the 2013 D-League Finals and the place was still filling in about at tip-off.

I hadn't been down to Santa Cruz for a game in a while, but things had only gotten better in the interim.

There was actually a media row this time which is cool, but we were stationed behind the fans sitting courtside, which made it hard to see when they were standing before the first basket went in. A security guard I spoke to mentioned that this had become more of a social event since the season began: in the beginning, it was a sort of non-traditional sports crowd with a number of families and seniors there. Since, it's become a thing for more of the younger crowd to check out and, as the security guard said, the place were folks come after they get faded - there was aromatic evidence to support his claims.

For now a few notes on the game:

  • First, RGV did end up winning this thing, but they could've easily won by more: both teams missed a number of layups that could have changed the course of the game, but the Vipers had a frustrating combination of missed layups and not getting calls from the officials. Still, they persevered primarily due to 22 4th quarter free throw attempts, which came as a direct result of attacking the basket and drawing contact as Santa Cruz defenders were late in providing help.

  • Toure Murry obviously had a huge game as he recorded a triple double, but particularly significant were a pair of free throws he hit with 27.5 left in the game and the Vipers up two points. After hitting the first, it looked like his calf cramped up after on the follow through. He limped off the court, stretched out the cramp a bit, and then walked back on to the court to hit the second free throw and put his team up by four. On the ensuing Santa Cruz possession, Murry managed to play through the cramp again to stop Stefhon Hannah's attempt to slash to the basket. In the end, he had to be helped off of the court. It was a gutsy, if just simply unusual, finish to the game for Murry.

  • Everybody has been commenting on how much Tyler has grown as a player and there were definitely flashes of a player who's starting to figure things out and especially in the clutch. Tyler came up with two big shots late in the game to tie things up with 1:28 left, but the Warriors just couldn't hold on. He's definitely looking more comfortable with his jumper. Yet more importantly, there are definitely signs of increased patience and poise once he receives the ball in the post. He had a very nice pass out of a double team to Cam Jones for a jumper from the right wing with a little more than four minutes left in the first quarter. Then he had another great baseline pass to a cutter out of a double in traffic a couple minutes later. He really looked like a different player early on. If there's one way to describe Tyler's progress throughout this D-League season it's that he looks much more focused on making simple plays rather than forcing superstar plays. Not to say he didn't maybe force a play or two, but on the whole he really does look more attuned to the flow of the game as it unfolds.

  • But the second half as a whole was a different story for Tyler: saddled with foul trouble, he was a spectator for most of it. When he was in, RGV center Tim Olbrecht really gave Tyler fits on the defensive end. Olbrecht played off of his guards extremely well, sort of waiting to see how things would unfold and then making cuts at exactly the right time to get himself in position to receive a pass. Although his numbers don't show it because he missed a number of layups, he was really aggressive about getting to the basket, outrunning Tyler for one layup attempt in transition and just went around him on a few rebounding situations. Tyler then capped off an up and down night with a technical foul with 10 seconds left when the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt.

  • DJ Kennedy might not have been the star of this game on paper, but he has a grit to him that sort of epitomized the team's mindset: it didn't matter if he wasn't scoring as easily as he wanted to, having calls go against him, or not get calls when he got hammered around the basket. When he was on the floor, he just kept fighting and found ways to impact the game especially on the boards. The problem was that he lost his cool on a few occasions - after an exchange with Warriors point guard Scott Machado with 9:20 left in the game, Kennedy left the bench to take a stroll down the aisle toward the bathrooms alongside the bleachers. It was a tough night for him overall, but he's a player that RGV relies on and he made some plays down the stretch that hurt the Warriors.

  • For the Warriors, a player who really stood out was Machado. His ability to run an offense and set up teammates was evident back in Summer League. The big knock on him, according to someone on media row, has been that he can't shoot. Tonight he tried to punch some holes in that theory: his fourth three of the night gave the Warriors a three point lead at the end of three quarters. He has a set shot with a somewhat slow release, but he showed tonight that when given space with his feet set he's capable of knocking shots down.

  • Still, the D-League is (obviously) a step up from Summer League and it was clear at times that Machado is still catching up to the speed of the game a bit. He had three turnovers in the second quarter on some ill-advised alley oops. Machado did make a great bounce to Goulbourne in transition that led to free throws, which he won't get credited for but he mostly looks like a player who just needs more time on the floor. He really got himself going around the 8 minute mark in the second quarter: after the pass to Goulbourne, he hit a three, then he drew an offensive foul on the other end (do they count flops in the D-League though?) and then he came down for a beautiful layup on a 2 on 1 fastbreak.

  • Cam Jones is another player I've had my eye on all season and he's looking a lot more comfortable playing with this starting unit than he was early in the season. He has always been a very decisive player, but the difference now is that he seems to have a better feel of where his teammates are going to be and how to get in position for his shots or set up others.

  • Leslie is just on a whole other plane of athleticism. The putback dunk he had early in the game got everyone to their feet. Unfortunately, he missed an attempt late in the game that allowed RGV to dodge a bullet and maintain their momentum.

    Leslie's failed shot attempt. Video by Jerry Hoffman of 12 Sports Productions.
  • It's hard not to mention Glen Rice, Jr. who had an outstanding all-around game in addition to a game-high 33 points, primarily finding scoring opportunities within the flow of the offense but also contributing on the boards and even blocking a few shots. But what really stood out about him was a bunch of thunderous dunks he had: consecutive alley oop dunks in the first quarter and an and-1 dunk over high riser Travis Leslie with 10 seconds left in the game. He dominated the game but what stood out about him in scoring a game-high is that he was just everywhere and made himself the type of player who wasn't going to be stopped in any one particular way.

For more on the game, visit SB Nation's Ridiculous Upside. For more on the Warriors, visit our Santa Cruz Warriors section.

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