EDINBURG — This was an RGV Vipers performance that fans have become spoiled with.
The defending NBA G League champions flexed their muscles in a way they haven’t done all year, exploding from the start with a 48-point first quarter, knocking down a season best 20 3-pointers and creating an library of highlight dunks, no-look passes and alley-oops en route to a dominant 142-128 win over the Iowa Wolves on Tuesday at Bert Ogden Arena.
The score was not indicative of the Vipers’ dominance throughout.
With Houston Rockets assignees Isaiah Hartenstein and Michael Frazier back in the RGV lineup, and the emergence of guard Chris Clemons in his first appearance with the Vipers, RGV took its first lead at 5-3 on a Frazier 3-pointer and the Vipers were off to their run and gun ways.
“Partially why me and Isaiah came down here was to set the tone early for these guys and it was easy for them to feed off of us early,” Clemons said. “I don’t know too much about the G League, but when the older guys come down from the NBA, it’s important to establish how we want to play and set a tempo for the game.”
Clemons and Hartenstein each scored a team-high 24 points. Clemons shot 6 of 14 from 3-point land.
“That’s what I do, shoot the ball,” Clemons said. “I thought I would shoot better than I did though, but we got the win and that’s what we wanted to do.”
The 141 points were the most this season, surpassing the 133 the Vipers scored in their previous home game, a 133-126 win over Gary Payton II and the South Bay Lakers. That win snapped an eight-game losing streak, and Tuesday’s win ended a three-game skid.
The Vipers also had 39 assists, something that head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah was pleased and noted immediately after the game.
“We had 39 assists and 20 turnovers so almost a 2-to-1 ratio and the guys did a good job. They shot the ball well,” Abdelfattah said. “Once you see the ball go through the net it gives you a lot of confidence. When we are sharing the ball like that — and with Isaiah and Chris leading it — I think everyone felt that.”
The Vipers have six more games in December, but just one at home at 11 a.m. Tuesday against Memphis.
The Vipers had arguably their most impressive half of the season, exploding for 48 points in the first quarter alone and going into halftime with an 82-58 advantage. They led by as many as 29 points in the half, connecting on 12 3-pointers in the half and shooting nearly 55% from the floor (31 of 57).
Clemons, making his first appearance this season, brought a quiet crowd to life, sizzling the nets from 3-point land in the first half where he was 5 for 9 and scored 19 points to lead all players. At one point, Clemons scored from beyond the arc on three straight trips down court, the final one barely touching the ball in the corner with a defender on him and fired away for nothing but net and the crowd erupted.
Clemons, along with the return of Frazier, last year’s G League Most Improved Player, and Isaiah Hartenstein, the League Finals MVP, lit a fire on a Vipers team that went into the contest at 2-11 on the season.
Hartenstein nearly had a triple-double in the first half with 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
“The guys understand that we still have to play the right way, it’s still early in the season,” Abdelfattah said. “There is no right time to play wrong. We are 3-11 right now but it’s gotta start somewhere and you can’t get on the winning streak until you get the first. We were just playing well, on both sides of the ball.”