EL SEGUNDO – In a battle of two unbeaten teams, the Los Angeles D-Fenders came up short on Thursday, falling to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers at the Toyota Sports Center, 133-120.
Los Angeles (2-1) was led by a pair of 20-point performers in forward Roscoe Smith (21) and guard Vander Blue (20). Justin Harper (17 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast) and Josh Magette (16 pts, 13 ast, 5 reb) also paced the team in multiple categories, while center Ivica Zubac – assigned to the D-Fenders by the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday – finished the game with 13 points, three rebounds and two blocks before fouling out of the contest. In total, seven D-Fenders scored in double figures.
Rio Grande Valley (3-0) entered the game as the league’s second-highest scoring team, and the Vipers again showed the firepower that has made them one of the D-League’s most potent offenses. Guard Isaiah Taylor was the star of the night for RGV, as he finished with a game-high 31 points and five assists, and forward Kyle Wiltjer added 26 points. Overall, the Vipers starting lineup outscored that of the D-Fenders, 93-72.
The D-Fenders got out to a quick start in the contest, starting the game on a 16-6 run behind a pair of baskets from Zubac and Harper. But the 10-point advantage would be the best of the night for Los Angeles as RGV’s depth started to take hold. Down 31-30 after one quarter, the Vipers never slowed their pace before leading by as much as 17 in the fourth frame.
The Vipers owned a dominant 64-36 advantage in rebounding, including 23 offensive rebounds that gave Rio Grande Valley extra shots at the basket. On the day, Los Angeles shot 42.4 percent (42-of-99), compared to 50.0 percent (48-of-46) from RGV.
Los Angeles will be back in action when the Santa Cruz Warriors visit the Toyota Sports Center at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.