Thornwell impressive in debut as Vipers win exhibition

The NBA G League Rio Grande Valley Vipers' Sindarius Thornwell (4) drives to the basket against Mexico Cibacopa in a preseason game at the Edinburg Sports and Wellness Center on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — Sindarius Thornwell is a new face for RGV Viper fans.

Those fans may want to get a good look at him now, while he’s still there.

Thornwell, who played 137 games for the Los Angeles Clippers over the past two seasons, made his Vipers debut Saturday against Mexico Cibacopa and didn’t disappoint. The second-round draft pick out the University of South Carolina was one of seven Vipers to score in double digits, collecting 14 points and the defending NBA G League champions ran — more like sprinted — to a 125-90 victory in a tuneup before the regular season begins Friday at Austin.

Vipers returner Jacobi Boykins led the team with 17 points while Angel Rodriguez (16), Kerwin Roach II (16), Diamond Stone (16), Brandon Sampson (15) and Daeshon Francis (12) also hit the double-digit scoring mark.

Thornwell completed a double-double by pulling down 10 rebounds to go with three assists, one blocked shot and four steals.

The traditionally high-powered Vipers offense also showed some impressive defense, collecting 16 steals and blocking 11 shots.

“I felt good, getting the rhythm back on offense,” Thornwell said. “The past two years I’ve just had a defensive mindset, it’s the role I had to play with the Clippers. Now I’ve got to get back into the offensive game. That’s one of the reasons I came here is because they are an offensive powerhouse team and the way they play helps me at what I need to show to get back to the next level.”

All but one Vipers player logged at least 17 minutes Saturday. Jason Blossomgame was held to just three minutes of playing time after blocking back-to-back shots in the first quarter and falling hard on his shoulder and hip in the first quarter. He did not return.

First0year head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah said he was pleased with what he saw and saw some things that needed quick adjustments as the Vipers continue to try to increase their pace of play and, as Abdelfattah said earlier in the week, “shoot more threes than last year.”

“We were pushing off misses well but we have to push off makes and get the ball out. We don’t want the ball to touch the ground and we need to keep our spacing and transition going.”

Abdelfattah said having someone like Thornwell added to the roster is a big play for the team. Thornwell was seen playing forward, point guard and even center.

“He’s been very good for us,” Abdelfattah said. “Obviously being in the NBA and coming down here, he values it and doesn’t feel like he’s bigger than the situation. He’s in the gym working after every practice and getting extra shots with the coaches.”

Thornwell was the only player remaining on the court, getting those extra threes, prior to the game as the teams warmed up.

That’s an area I’m proven in, showing I can make the three at a more consistent rate,” said Thornwell, who shot the three at a 37% clip as a rookie with the Clippers. “Over time, we will do better and there are liitle things we can pick up on.”

The Vipers trailed 12-9 early in the first quarter before a trio of returners showed what has made the team so dangerous over the years. In a span of less than two minutes, Rodriguez hit two 3-points, Boykins hit another and Sampson added one more and the deficit turned into a 18-12 lead that RGV never gave up. The Vipers pushed the lead to 59-36 at the half.

Francis and Stone pulled down 10 and 11 rebounds, respectively to also earn double-doubles. The Vipers converted on 14 of 52 3-pointers (26.9%) and every Viper took at least one 3-pointer while 10 of the 11 Vipers who played, converted on at least one 3-pointer.

RGV opens its regular season at Austin at 7:30 p.m. Friday before returning for its home opener at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, also against Austin.