RGV Vipers falter on offense in season-ending playoff loss to Austin Spurs

The RGV Vipers posted the lowest scoring output of their season on its final night, falling 117-91 against the Austin Spurs in the G League’s Western Conference semifinals on Monday at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.

“We weren’t able to get the shots that we wanted at the rim, and our kick outs weren’t available,” RGV Vipers coach Matt Brase said. “We struggled on the offensive end. Ninety points isn’t going to cut it for us.”

The Vipers shot a season-worst 19.2 percent (5 of 26) from beyond the arc and committed 20 turnovers despite the Spurs’ methodical pace. The five made 3-pointers marked a new season low, and RGV scored 50 points in the paint — well below the team’s typical output.

“Honestly, I have to give Austin a lot of credit. I think they were super locked in on their scout, and they were super solid,” Vipers guard R.J. Hunter said. “We just didn’t get any rhythm going, and then they capitalized. I just thought they played extremely well.”

RGV won just one of five matchups against Southwest Division rival Austin this year, averaging 102.2 points in those five games. The Vipers averaged 121.4 points per game against all other opponents during the regular season.

RGV’s 26-point margin of defeat was its second-worst of the year, behind only a 28-point loss to the Grand Rapids Drive on Jan. 26.

“We never got a true rhythm to the game and were pretty sloppy on both ends of the court,” Brase said. “They’re a really good defensive team, so we fell victim to what they do really well.”

Brase said RGV’s turnovers stemmed from attempts to force entry passes to the post, as the Vipers struggled to find a footing against the Spurs’ plodding style.

Hunter said RGV’s defense prevented the offense from getting rolling, as Austin shot 57.6 percent overall and 40.9 percent from 3-point range.

“We can’t run if we don’t have the ball. That was the thing we didn’t do tonight,” Hunter said. “Once we get stops, I think we’re impossible to beat. But we just didn’t do that.”

Hunter and Monte Morris led the Vipers with 20 points each. Hunter connected on 8 of 18 attempts from the field and 1 of 8 from 3-point range, while Morris converted 8 of 13 overall and 2 of 4 from beyond the arc. Isaiah Hartenstein posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Darius Morris was the only other Viper in double-figure scoring with 10 points.

RGV fell into a 14-7 hole midway through the first quarter but used an 18-8 run to take its largest lead of the game at 25-22 late in the period. Austin scored the final seven points of the quarter and then used a pair of 9-0 runs — one early in the second quarter and one late — to take a commanding 63-45 advantage into halftime.

The Vipers pulled as close as 14 points during the third quarter, but the Spurs maintained control to carry a 93-68 lead into the final period. Austin led by as many as 31 points early in the fourth before RGV score nine straight, but the Vipers never threatened a comeback, making the margin no tighter than 21 down the stretch.

RGV earned the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference with a 29-21 record. Austin entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed, tied for the G League’s best record at 32-18 and coming off a first-round bye.

Brase said he was proud of the individual strides many of the Vipers’ players made this season, while Hunter looked back positively on the team’s performance through heavy roster turnover.

“It was a great season,” Hunter said. “It was one of the coolest teams I’ve been on. … I’m just excited about how this year went.”