The Legends came into Saturday night’s contest looking to shake off the cobwebs of a 125-112 loss to the South Bay Lakers the previous night. Texas is looking to correct some of their defensive misgivings in that contest, as South Bay lit them up to the tune of 64% from the field, and 54% from beyond the arch. After the game forward Brandon Ashley said the three point line has been their “Achilles heel” all season long, and that they needed to clean it up if they were to finish the home stand strong.
What they lacked in defensive intensity last night, they more than made up for in the first few minutes of this game. With head coach Bob Mckinnon barking out instructions from the bench, Texas was swarming early. Whether it was trapping ball handlers out of pick and rolls or getting in passing lanes, there was clearly an emphasis put on that end of the floor. Behind the offensive punch of Motley and Kieth Hornsby, the Legends sprinted out to an early lead.
Assistant coach Zendon Hamilton talked about their renewed focus on the defensive end after the game.
“It was” Hamilton said when asked if they their energy on defense was a point of emphasis.
“We wanted to inflict our defensive prowess, just from an effort standpoint. They played the night before, so just from an effort standpoint try to take them out of rhythm. That they are struggling helps as well.”
Salt Lake would respond to the early punch thrown by Texas. Led by steady guard Nate Wolters, they would bring the score to a 30-30 deadlock at the end of one.
The latter part of the half was controlled by Salt Lake. That same defensive intensity that fueled the Legends in the first, seemingly waned as Salt Lake finished up the half shooting 54% from the floor, and 45% from three. On the other end for Texas, things didn’t go very well either. The energy they expended seemed to take a toll, as they only shot 27% from deep through first 24 minutes. The Stars would carry a 64-57 lead into the half led by Wolter’s 12 point, 4 assist first half. Johnathan Motley would pace Texas with a 16 point, 5 rebound showing through the first two quarters.
A personal 11-0 Justin Dentmon run vaulted the Legends back in front early in the third period. Texas would go on to outscore Salt Lake 36-17 and Dentmon would finish with 21 in the quarter. He helped Texas regain, and build a healthy, 93-81 lead.
“I was just in a zone. I just kept telling my teammates that we are not losing this game, because that says a lot about a team after coming off a loss, to come back and play better and that’s what we did.” Dentmon said of his third quarter explosion.
“It felt like I was just throwing balls in the ocean out there.”
An 11-4 burst by Salt Lake to open the final frame would have the Legends feeling a little uneasy, and at one point the Stars did steal the lead back. After a timeout by coach Mckinnon, the Legends got a critical three point make from Horsby-who continued his recent string of strong play-to go back in front by two, 112-110 with just under 3 minutes remaining. That score would hold, after what was a wild last two minutes featuring multiple mad scrambles, jump balls, missed free throws, and squandered opportunities, the Legends managed to escape, 112-110.
Salt Lake would shoot a solid 48% from the floor, and were led by 25 points from forward Eric Griffin. Their backcourt of Nate Wolters, and Naz Mitrou-Long was also very effective. They scored 24 and 18 respectively, and handed out their fare share of assists as well.
As for the Legends, they were lead by the man of the hour, Justin Dentmon. He would finish with 34, with 21 of them coming in the third quarter. He shot 12-22 from the floor. The big fella Johnathan Motley would have another nice game as well, pitching in 21 points, and team high 14 rebounds.
This win concluded Texas’s home stand. They finished up at 2-2 and brought their record back to .500 with the win. Reinforcements are on the way in form of Jameel Warney and Donald Sloan, as they finish up their duty with the team USA qualifying squad. The Legends will be back in action Wednesday night, as they take on the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. You can catch the game live through the G League mobile app, or via the team website.
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