Toros Finish Busy Week With Lopsided Win
Leo Lyons named to All-Star team
By Will Schmidt,
3:36PM, Sat. Feb. 25, 2012
One glance at the D-Leauge schedule and you'll immediately notice that this roller coaster season is right about at the two-thirds point. With 34 games down and just 16 to go, the Austin Toros sit at 22-12, good enough for second place in the Western Conference and third best in the NBDL.
After a record-breaking start in the first half of the season, things cooled off for our Capital City Toro ballplayers. Austin lost eight of 11 games after their 18-4 start, including five of eight on their recently epic road trip which saw the Toros play through Canton, the Rio Grande Valley, Reno, Bakersfield, and Los Angeles before returning to the Cedar Park Center for Wednesday's home victory against the Tulsa 66ers. It was a much-needed win, and after another storm of recent player movement, hopefully life around Toros camp can return to early season form, and with it bring that familiar taste of success.
For top-tier Toros fans, the rotation might have seemed a bit different at Wednesday's home win against Tulsa than perhaps it appeared some three weeks earlier during Austin's previous home game (the Feb. 1 home loss to the Vipers). First of all, Lance Thomas, our inspirational captain and voice of true greatness, has found his way back up to the New Orleans Hornets, where he spent some time during the NBA's mega-concentrated training camp before rejoining his minor-league brotherhood in Austin. His stellar play, a swift maneuver a minute, showed his potential. It didn't take long for injuries in New Orleans to start adding up, and as a result, LT found himself signing a 10-day contract. Ten days later he signed another one. That was about a week ago. Stay tuned for what happens next with Thomas, a solid choice for one's personal hero. But as we come to terms with life minus Lance Thomas, we can regain some fond excitement with the notion that Squeaky Johnson has returned to Austin. After spending a big chunk of the year with the very same Hornets of New Orleans, Squeaky is back in Austin to most likely finish out his fifth season playing for the Toros.
Another recent roster move finds Eric Dawson in a Spurs warmup suit, sitting excitedly on the end of Gregg Popovich's bench. Dawson was called up to the Spurs this week after averaging a double-double in his 18 games for the Toros. His 10-day contract goes through next week, so we'll be eager to see if he can stick around with the elite.
It sure felt warm and refreshing to get the victory at home against the Tulsa 66ers on Wednesday night. It had become routine for our D-League fans to expect a win every night, what with the record-breaking swagger brought by Austin. But just like a great man once said, "Things always find a way to even out in the end." That great man was me, and when I said it, I was actually talking about the Indianapolis 500, but it applies to almost everything, so count on it, will ya? And so you won't be so downhearted when – like all great sporting clubs throughout time – the Austin Toros lose a few games midseason. Because it happens. Life happens. Your life, my life, Lance Thomas' life. Try your best, that's all I mean. And so we reflect on Wednesday's victory.
Twas an absolute razzle-dazzling spectacle put forth by our Toros, as they mashed the Tulsa team by a final shellacking of 114-87. Team superstar and D-Legue All-Star Justin Dentmon did his usual thing, putting it down for 32 points and 8 assists (10 of 18 from the field, 6 of 6 from the line, 6 three-pointers). The rest of the squad scored points in an extremely balanced attack, with six players scoring 8 or more points (seven counting Dentmon). The Toros shot a blistering 57.9% from the field, a robust 45.5% from the arc, and a businesslike 80% from the free-throw stripe as they outscored the 66ers in every quarter. Add it all up and you've got a big-time fireworks display of winning.
So now we sit in second place, perhaps not so comfortably as most might, not after the winning ways we had grown accustomed to up though mid-January. Three games separate us and the Los Angeles Defenders, a furiously hot team on a nine-game winning streak. After losing to LA twice last week in California, we won't see the Defenders again in the regular season, and if things don't change too much in the standings, which seems likely, these two teams wouldn't see each other again unless they met in the Western Conference Finals, a beautiful dream that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Will the dream come true? Time, like it always does, will tell the tale.
And so we count down the days, mark off the remaining games on our homemade Austin Toros calendars. It's almost March, and that means a picture of D-League All-Star Leo Lyons spinning to the hoop is almost on display in my office. Hopefully the Toros didn't get too comfortable back on their home court, because it sure isn't lasting long. It's back on the road for Austin as they travel north to Frisco for a little double-dip against the Texas Legends. Remember back at the beginning of the year when pretty much everybody was beating up on the Legends? Well they've turned the course a bit after the rough start, and they'll come into the two games against Austin on a four-game win streak.