Toros Celebrate the Holidays With Wins
Hold league-best record
By Will Schmidt, 1:25PM, Wed. Dec. 28, 2011
It's been a festive week for our favorite guys, the Austin Toros. Needing one win to get back on track for the "Win 2, Lose 1" strategy that I've coined, the Toros did us one better, they won both games this week! Recaps are down below, but first, some more thoughts on the Toros of yesterday.
I've been trying to figure out just the right way to embrace our ball club now that Lance Thomas is gone. He's still across the pond in New Orleans, where he'll likely find himself a roster spot and a big pay raise from his Toros days. I've had some time now, and I'm come to accept this as reality. And my sadness has turned a 180. I'm ecstatic for Lance. He's in the NBA now! It's a dream come true for him, and for Lance Thomas fans everywhere. We might not get to see him dominate the basketball court at the Cedar Park Center anymore, and it's probably true that he's not ready to have a huge role for the NBA-owned Hornets, but we'll continue to monitor the situation, and if all goes according to plan, in a few years we'll all remember Lance's Toros days as he checks into the NBA All-Star game, wherever it be held.
In Toros news, we got our flashy playmaker, Justin Dentmon, back on the squad after he was waived by Lance's Hornets. "Slambuki Luke" Zeller was subsequently cut by the Spurs, a move that left San Antonio with just 13 players on the roster. Zeller's dynamic shooting abilities for a center, stretching the floor all the way out to 3-point distance, wasn't quite good enough for the defensive brain of Gregg Popovich, as Slambuki Luke's defense and rebounding are still lacking to make it on Popovich's bench. Zeller is likely to find his way back to the Toros, but at the moment he's weighing his options. That leaves Lance Thomas and Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson as the two Toros who have landed real roster spots in The Show, both landing with the New Orleans Hornets. It's a bittersweet moment, obviously, and we'll never forget how we enjoyed watching Johnson motor up and down the court in Austin. We'll reminisce with our pals at the corner store about the good old days, when NBA third-string point guard Carldell Johnson was our little engine that could.
The first of two recent games, the December 18 home victory against the bumbling, stumbling goofballs, the Texas Legends, brought an expected W to Austin's record. Texas came into the game at 1-7, and Austin needed the victory to establish themselves back at the 66% winning percentage (win 2, lose 1) that we at the Chronicle have outlined as a realistic goal for the team. And as figured by most, the Toros beat down the Legends 116-99. With the new starting lineup finding some insane chemistry over a very short period of time, Austin really looked like a tight-knit crew against Texas, but we need to take this with a grain of oats, what with the Legends being so dang lousy.
Omar Reed led the team in scoring efficiency for the third straight game, scoring 19 points on eight of 11 shooting. Reed, a savvy young player, is knocking on the starting lineup's door, and Head Coach Brad Jones has been impressed with his new players' abilities on offense. The Toros shot 85% from the free-throw line, and they forced 22 turnovers in beating the Legends with ease. They lead by 20 at halftime, and the general consensus at intermission was "game over." Toros 6-3 after the victory.
With plenty of practice time in between the December 18 victory and their next game, a roadie against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Austin was able to fine-tune their defensive game plan. After giving up an average of nearly 115 points per game in their previous four contests, the Toros were looking to prevent a second straight team from reaching the century mark in consecutive games, something they haven't done since the first two games of the season (probably thanks to Lance Thomas).
In the December 23 game against Fort Wayne, Austin welcomed back their star guard, Justin Dentmon, who had been waived by the New Orleans Hornets. Dentmon reclaimed his starting position, forcing Stefan Welsh back to the second unit, but in his first game back in a Toros uniform, Dentmon had trouble finding his shooting touch. He made just three of 13 field-goal attempts, but was dynamite from the charity stripe, knocking down all 12 attempts. With Dentmon returning, Omar Reed's hot streak ended, as he had just 5 points in 19 minutes, but the Toros focused their recent practice time on defense, and the effort showed as such. They held the Mad Ants to 41.4% shooting, including just 21.7% from downtown. A balanced offensive attack proved super, with the Austin starting five all scoring in double figures. Terrance Woodbury and Eric Dawson made up for Dentmon's poor shooting, shooting a combined 16 for 25 for 37 points. It was a noble team effort, and one that we should remember as the Toros beat the Mad Ants 110-98. Toros 7-3!
And with that 7-3 record comes exciting news! Going into Christmas Eve, your Austin Toros are in first place in the Western Conference! Not only that, their 7-3 record is the best in the entire D-League! The vibe all around Austin is Toros championship possibilities and how gosh darn good they look. Christmas tidings have never smelled so rosy.
The Week Ahead:
After a well deserved four-day break for the holidays, Austin is back in action with a back-to-back double home game bill against the Springfield Armor (who have one of the worst names in the D-League) on December 29 and 30. Springfield currently holds an impressive 7-5 record. The Toros need to protect home court, and even though it's always a daunting task to win a double-header like this, Austin needs to show dominance. Dentmon will have a full week of practice back with the club, and all gut feelings point to Austin winning.
The two games versus Springfield kick off a four-game homestand. Anyone able to attend all four games would be a fool not to. I'll be there, whispering magic spells to myself, trying to help the home team any way possible. Hopefully the ushers won't stop me from bringing some eye of newt into the arena. See you at the games! Happy Holidays!
Vs. Springfield: Thu., Dec. 29, 1pm; Fri., Dec. 30, 7:30pm; Thu., Jan. 5, 7:30pm. Cedar Park Center, 2100 Avenue of the Stars, Cedar Park, 512/600-5000. $8-99 plus fees.