Vipers lose home opener to Austin

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers' Isaiah Harrtenstein (55) goes up for a a rebound against the Austin Spurs' Drew Eubanks (14) during an NBA G League game Saturday at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg. Photo by Delcia Lopez | The Monitor

BY HENRY MILLER

STAFF WRITER

EDINBURG — As Daeshon Francis waited at the scorer’s table to check into Saturday’s NBA G League home opener for the RGV Vipers, the player he was going to replace, Jacobi Boykins, got on a hot streak and nailed three straight 3-pointers, the last one from well behind the arc.

“Maybe I should go back,” he told head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah.

Boykins’ streak cut a 99-86 deficit to 99-95 in just under a minute. That’s the type of offense the Vipers are known for.

It wasn’t the offense, however, that was the problem, as the Vipers lost 131-124 to the Austin Spurs to split their home and away back-to-back games.

As expected, the Vipers pushed the ball and scored quickly, converting on 18 of 45 3-pointers on the night. However, it was a defense that allowed the Spurs to shoot 55% from the floor and outrebound them 54-27 that was the game changer.

“The defensive effort wasn’t there,” Abdelfattah said after the game. “We have to pay attention more to the defensive side of the floor. It’ll get better. We played well in spurts and it’s all about making progress.”

Boykins led the team with 29 points, connecting on 7 of 12 3s. Angel Rodriguez sank 5 of 7 3s and ended up with 27 points to go with seven assists and six steals. His defensive effort — coming up with three steals during the fourth quarter — helped keep the vipers in the game.

One of those steals brought the Vipers to within 103-100, and Sindarius Thornwell followed on the next possession with a strong drive down the lane to shrink Austin’s lead to 1, but the Vipers never regained the lead.

Gary Clark added 25 points and Isaiah Hartenstein contributed was 21 points and 14 rebounds.

Ten Vipers played in the game — two more than played Friday at Austin. Hartenstein, Clark, Boykins and Rodriguez also eclipsed the 20-point mark in that contest.

The game opened as a dunk fest as Hartenstein dunked on his first three shots, one coming off an offensive rebound and another off a Rodriguez drive-turned alley-oop. Clark then added a fourth straight dunk off a fast break offensive rebound and the Vipers were up 8-0.

After a pair of baskets from Austin’s Drew Eubanks, lefty Jacobi Boykins knocked down his first 3-pointer and RGV held an 11-4 early advantage. Boykins converted three of the team’s 11 first-half 3 pointers. Rodriguez found his groove from long distance in the first half with four 3-pointers on five attempts.

Clark had 17 points at the half to lead RGV. Rodriguez added 13 points and Boykins had 11, but Austin held a slim 69-65 halftime lead.

The Vipers return to action at 7 p.m. Tuesday against the Santa Cruz Warriors, the team the Vipers played in last year’s G League semifinals en route to their third championship. Prior to Saturday’s games, the championship banner was revealed and players, coaches and staff — including last year’s head coach, Joseph Blair, who returned for the ceremony — received their championship rings.

hmiller@themonitor.com