Originally posted April 11, 2018
On Tuesday evening at the Hersey Centre in Mississauga, about 40 minutes north of Toronto, the Austin Spurs celebrated their second NBA G League Championship. I will now remember the pungent smell of champaign mixed with a hockey dressing room for the rest of my life (you could say this is both a good thing and a bad thing).
The Raptors 905 got up to an uncharacteristic fast start, clearly sensing the urgency of the game. With Derrick White off to a slow start the Spurs fell behind early. Enter Canadian nation team member, Olivier Hanlan, who put up 8 points on 4-4 shooting and a +17 rating in 6 minutes. A couple of minutes after Hanlan subbed in, he was followed by Jeff Ledbetter who scored 10 points in the quarter (4-4, +10). Combined with the steady play from G League Finals MVP Nick Johnson it was the Spurs depth that led to a 28-18 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was chippy, intense and played at a fast pace. With both White and Darrun Hilliard struggling from the field, Hanlan and Ledbetter continued to lead the way, finishing the first half with 11 and 13 points respectively, with Ledbetter a perfect 5-5 from from the field. While the Spurs maintained control for most of the quarter, some sloppy play during the last minute allowed the 905 to keep the deficit in single digits as Spurs led 46-38.
Perhaps the most bizarre moment of the first half was when a security quarter guard came on to the court to try to break up a conversation when Blake Ahearn was giving one of the officials an earful.
The 905 started the third quarter with a three point play to close within 5 and were within 1, 46-45 a couple minutes later leading to an early Austin timeout. It took about half the quarter for the Spurs to settle back in and a three by Johnson pushed the lead back to double digits, 59-48, with 5:47 to play. A nice pass by White to Jaron Blossomgame, followed by a triple from Ledbetter, sparked a run and the Spurs held a commanding 71-56 lead that the 905 managed to whittle down to 73-62 by the end of the quarter.
With White struggling to start the forth quarter, Hilliard, who was 1-9 at this point, came alive and almost single handily pushed the Spurs lead to 81-64 and that was pretty much the ball game with a Johnson emphatic alley-oop being the exclamation point.
Which brings me back to the post-game. This really was a “Spurs” team. Coach Ahearn was giving all the credit to the players and you could tell from the celebration and the way the players talked after the game that there was something special about this group. I will share more in my next post but that will have to wait for now as I am exhausted and need to get home and in to bed. Congratulations to the Austin Spurs on a great season, the championship is well deserved!