AUSTIN – In need of a quick basket with the Santa Cruz Warriors mounting a comeback, the Austin Spurs pulled a page out of the San Antonio Spurs’ playbook and ran HAMMER to perfection.
As Jeff Ledbetter drove into the lane, he laid a precision pass to Daniel Nwaelele in the corner for a 3-pointer to give Austin a 103-98 lead with less than 90 seconds left.
The Spurs never scored again.
It’s been a reoccurring theme this season. And this time the narrative isn’t solely based on the inability to close out games.
Austin has struggled mightily against the Warriors this season, going 0-3 against Golden State’s D-League affiliate before Thursday night.
Since Cory Jefferson departed to the Philippines, the Austin Spurs have gone 3-0 to keep their playoff hopes alive. Then their Friday night opponent defeated the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to eliminate Austin’s last ditch at the postseason, giving the silver and black nothing to play for but pride and a shot at showcasing their NBA potential for clubs this summer.
The chance of playing spoiler to the Warriors’ increasing playoff chances was enough motivation for Austin through 46 minutes of action, until Santa Cruz used an 8-0 run to close out the game with a victory, in a fashion that’s been all too familiar to Austin.
Even with 3.7 seconds remaining, Jeff Ledbetter did his best March Madness impression, shaking and twisting away from his defender at the top of the arc to create enough space to unleash a game-tying 3-pointer that swished through the net with ease.
Except the clock expired before Ledbetter’s jumper soared through the air.
Orlando Johnson’s 17 points led the way for Austin, as six total players scored in double figures. Ryan Arcidiacono had 16 points, three rebounds and three assists. And Charles Garcia had 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
But Austin’s team effort was no match for the duo from Santa Cruz.
Phil Pressey lit up the box score with a game-high 24 points, while center Damian Jones had a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
So what’s next?
Four games remain in the season, but much more important things are still at stake.
With the D-League’s expansion, two-way player contracts coming to the NBA, and more lucrative opportunities available overseas, the Austin Spurs (22-24) have more than just the quest to get to .500 on the season to look forward to.
Austin will attempt to spoil the playoff hopes of their northern rivals, the Texas Legends (25-22), tomorrow night. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. CST from the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco. The game can be seen on TEXAS47 in the Metroplex or on Facebook Live everywhere else.