EDINBURG — When Isaiah Hartenstein scored off an offensive rebound with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter, it marked the final points in a blistering run where the RGV Vipers outscored the 905 Raptors 19-2 in about six minutes.
Unfortunately for the Vipers, that was pretty much their only blistering moments. The Raptors jumped out to a 13-3 lead in the game’s first three-plus minutes and, other than the run that closed a 23-point deficit down to six, forced their will on the home standing Vipers en route to a 113-97 G League victory Wednesday at Bert Ogden Arena.
Poor shooting, slow-as-molasses defense and sloppy play sent the Vipers, who clinched the Southwest Division title on Sunday to their third loss in the past 11 games. The loss dropped them to 30-15 overall. They are one game behind the Santa Cruz Warriors for the Western Division’s top seed. The Vipers have five games remaining, four of them at home.
“You’re not going to win by shooting like that,” said Vipers first-year coach Joseph Blair. “You’re not going to win when you play defense like that – you’ve got to get back on defense. We got outscored on fast break points 34-6. That’s unacceptable.”
Of course in the ever-changing roster world that is the G League, you may not know who will be in your lineup hours before game time. The Vipers had three players land from Toronto on Wednesday, and all saw playing time.
“That’s just how things are in this league, it’s always changing,” Blair said. “That’s why communication is so important.”
Hartenstein has been a man among boys in recent weeks for the Vipers, once again leading them with a double-double, scoring 28 points while pulling down 17 rebounds. He powered in dunk-after-dunk, many of them coming on alley-oop passes from Michael Frazier.
Newcomer Terrance Jones had a good debut for the Vipers, scoring 20 points while pulling down six rebounds. Blair said he was happy with the performance but added that Jones will need more time to get used to hectic pace of the Vipers.
“I lot of times he just kept the ball in his hands for too long instead of moving it around quickly, like we want to do,” Blair said. “But he just needs to get more playing time under him and learn our system. It all comes with time. “
Raptors Duane Notice and Wade Baldwin got the visitors off to a 6-0 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers and 905 never looked back, extending its lead to 12 at the end of the first quarter and 18 at the half.
The Vipers trailed 72-49 when they went on the run everyone was expecting to come sooner or later. Jones had six points during the run, including a two-handed dunk after he stole a pass near the Vipers’ basket. Gary Clark hit a 3-pointer and scored off beautiful Frazier pass.
905 took a timeout with the Vipers trailing by six. When the teams returned to action and put a quick end to the run, scoring on an inbound play and three 3-pointers during an 11-3 run of their own.
The Vipers, known for their high octane offense, could only connect on 6 of 36 3-pointers for the game (16.7 percent). They were also jus 15 of 27 from the free-throw line (55.6 percent). Meanwhile, the Raptors were draining threes, connecting on 16 of 41 (39 percent). Notice converted on 6 of 10 3-pointers, Josh Adams was 4 of 11 from the arc and Wade Baldwin was 3 of 6. Baldwin led the team with 25 points, Adams and Jordan Loyd each had 23 and Notice had 20.
The only other player in double figures for RGV was Danuel House Jr., connecting on 4 of 11 shots from the field and 4 of 8 from the free-throw line to end the night with 12 points.
RGV has back-to-back homes games Friday and Saturday, playing Stockton on Friday and Sioux Falls on Saturday. Both games start at 7 p.m.