Toros Begin Playoffs on Thursday
First home game Sunday
By Will Schmidt,
2:52PM, Wed. Apr. 11, 2012
The Austin Toros' regular-season finale came and went on Saturday night with a 103-98 road victory against the Sioux Falls Skyforce. It was a game that had little importance other than as a springboard into the postseason.
Austin was comfortably in second place behind the Los Angeles D-Fenders, and that's where they sit as they prepare for Thursday's opener in the D-League tournament. A shot at everlasting greatness is right there, right in front of the faces of each and every Austin player and every member of the Toros family. But just like everything else that's truly important, winning the D-League Championship is going to be one of the most difficult accomplishments any of these players have ever achieved.
First of all, let's talk turkey. Even though Austin has the second-best record in the league, they are seeded third in the tournament because of the two-conference infrastructure. As a result, the slightly weaker Springfield Armor – who have four less wins and four more losses than our Austin team – will be the second seed and Austin will be third. And instead of playing the seventh-seeded Canton Charge, a team Austin has gone 3-1 against this season, the Toros will face off in the first round of the playoffs against the Erie Bayhawks, a club that holds a mysterious aura, with Austin only playing them once this year in an 111-88 victory on January 10. That was a long time ago, however, and Erie isn't the same team that we saw that winter night in January.
Austin will also look different than what we've grown used to. First of all, starting point guard and leading scorer Justin Dentmon, has been signed by the Toronto Raptors to a 10-day contract. It's Dentmon's second stint in the NBA, after he failed to impress on a 10-day contract with the San Antonio Spurs last month. He's not seeing the court very much, so we'll continue to monitor the situation, for if he isn't resigned by the Raptors, Dentmon could be rejoining the Toros in time for the third and final game of the first-round series against Erie. Other notable names no longer with Austin include Lance Thomas who was signed through the remainder of the New Orleans Hornets' regular season, Leo Lyons who was traded to Dakota on March 6, and Lester Hudson who is currently lighting it up as a starting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
So to win two out of three against Erie (which is how the first-round series is constructed, a best of three), the reigns of the Toros chariot will fall into the hands of Eric Dawson (17.2 ppg) and Cory Joseph (30 assists in final three games). Coach Brad Jones is obviously the greatest coach in the history of D-League contenders, and his brain is working hard (as we speak) to outsmart his coaching counterparts on the Erie sidelines. His strategizing goes deep into the night-time hours, and he has even trained himself to build ideal rotations while he sleeps. The wild card you ask? Well, it's none other than Ronald "Flip" Murray, who scored 25 on 9 of 10 shooting in the season finale. The former Seattle SuperSonics great.
On the other side of the ball, Erie has former NBA player Joey Graham leading the way. In his time with Erie, he has not failed to score at least 16 points or shoot less than 50% from the field. Alongside Graham you got center Kyle Goldcamp, a big fellow who has developed himself into a rebounding machine.
With game one on the road in Erie, we need to rally behind our Toros as they come home for game two. Hopefully there won't be need for a game three, but if there is, it does my heart good to know that it will be played at the Cedar Park Center.
Here's the schedule for the series: Game one in Erie, Thursday, April 12, 6pm; game two in Austin, Sunday, April 15, 3pm; and if necessary, game three will be in Austin, Monday, April 16, 7:30pm.
This is what we've been waiting for Toros faithful! The playoffs are among us! If you can't make it to Erie for game one, then I will see your smiling faces at the Cedar Park Center on Sunday afternoon. The party starts early, so let's get there accordingly to start our march toward greatness. Championship season sometimes come but once a lifetime. Cherish the moments, and I'll see you at the arena.