Random thoughts about the Vipers victory over the Utah Flash

Here are some random thoughts about the loss to the Vipers:

  • The most important thing I learned in this game is that the Utah Flash either out played or played even with one of the very best teams in the NBADL: the defending champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Flash had a bad first quarter, surrendered too many points at the free throw line, and were greatly out rebounded. If they could have corrected any ONE of those problems, the Utah Flash would have won.
  • The Vipers started off making 8 of their first 9 shots and were 3 of 3 from the arc with a very up tempo offense. Not only did they stretch the floor with the outside shooting, but their center, Jeff Adrien, was 3 of 3 in the first quarter.
  • Meanwhile the Flash opened the game by making only 3 of their first 13 shots, and turning the ball over twice.
  • The Flash ended Q1 down 14, but were just -1 in personal fouls called. The fouling that followed later seemed to be a reaction to the easy scoring the Vipers enjoyed early on.
  • In Q1, 61 percent of the Vipers shot attempts were in the paint (11 of 18), and 3 of the jumpers were 3 pointers… meaning they only took 4 midrange jump shots.
  • Meanwhile the Flash were settling for jump shots and not making many of them. My shot chart shows them 2 of 7 from outside, and 1 of 4 from the arc, totaling 3 of 11 outside the paint. Not only does that shot selection keep the Flash for scoring much, but it keeps them off the free throw line as well.
  • The Flash were not just shooting outside but shooting against the shot clock. When Orien Greene played point guard for the Flash, he pushed the down court ball better, even after made baskets,  and gave the Flash a few more seconds to work in the half court. They miss those seconds.
  • Between the Vipers hot 3 point shooting, and their effective post up and driving game, they had the Utah Flash on their heels and the Flash really looked over matched. That’s what made their second half performance so impressive. The Flash was undersized on the court, but made up for it with their HUGE hearts.
  • The Vipers game plan in the first half seemed to include posting up Kevin Kruger first thing down the court. This forced the Utah Flash to help and as the Flash scrambled to rotate to other men, the Vipers took advantage of it with ball movement and dribble penetration, resulting in the Flash fouling players on their way to the basket.
  • The Vipers used a zone early on that seemed to crowd the low block and discouraged the Flash from running their plays to and through that position.
  • The Flash defense on Vipers scorer Jeff Adrien was very impressive. Jeff looked like he was going to eat us for lunch, but the Flash threw bodies at him, active, physical and determined, Jordan BradyTony Gaffney, Ronald DuPree, Nkem Ojougboh,… they wore Jeff Adrien down and took his swagger. Way cool, guys.
  • The Flash were -14 in Q1, -2 in Q2, +8 in Q3 and -2 in Q4, but that is a little misleading. The Flash actually outplayed the Vipers in Q4, but near the end Q4, the Flash fouled to stop the clock, giving up free throw points to a team that shot 80 percent for the game. In other words, the Flash actually played the Vipers even, once they got over their horrid first quarter.
  • I’m sure there is real pressure to play Pape Sy, the tall, athletic guard on assignment from the Atlanta Hawks, but he was 0 of 4 from the floor and unremarkable on the defensive side of the ball as well. By the way, Pape played part of the game in a generic uniform, #2, then played in his uniform, #10.
  • I don’t know why the Flash are reluctant to play Jordan Brady. Today he was 4 of 6 in just 9 minutes of play, with 2 rebounds and a key late game steal that could have sparked a late rally.
  • Speaking of coaching decisions, it was really frustrating as a fan to see our players fight so hard and really bust their tails to claw back in to the game, all the way exhibiting admirable composure with the (at times) uneven officiating, only to have an extremely silly technical foul during a time out by coach Kevin Young needlessly give the opponent a precious point, and steepen the hill the players have been climbing. Yeah, the officiating was at times frustrating, but help us out here, coach. At a time like that, every little point matters a great deal.
  • Except for Pape Sy and Brandon Costner, the Flash had a solid offensive game. They just gave up too many points in the first half. They gave up 66 first half points, and 43 second half points, and too many of those points were impossible to defend, because they came at the free throw line.
  • I thought referee JT Orr did a solid job of calling the game, and Brett Nansel and Lauren Bass were alright, and would be good if they could be more consistent. There were some very mystifying calls and no calls tonight.
  • According to my numbers, 70% of the fouls Brett Nansel called this game were against the Flash. That makes some sense since the Vipers were attacking more, and the Flash settling for outside jumpers more, but having watched the same game he did, there seems to be more to that number.
  • There were times, as there always are in a basketball game, when the crowd got on the refs for making what I thought were good calls, like when Lauren called Kruger for sliding under a shooter when he went up for a layup. Very late the the game Tony Gaffney had a critical layup pinned against the back board. Had that shot gone in, the Flash might have completed the come back. I saw no foul on the play, neither did the officials, yet the crowd booed them vigorously. Most telling was after the play, Tony gave the Viper player who blocked him a pat on the bum and told him, “Good block.” That’s not to say the refs were not frustrating for other botched calls and no calls, but piling on them when they do the job right doesn’t undo that.
  • The most egregious and infuriating no call of the night was when a Vipers player shoved and took the legs out from under Brian Hamilton on an open court, fast break dunk. It was SHOCKING all three refs called nothing. It’s not like there were 10 players in the way of their view on that play, the refs just had a senior moment or something. Had Brian not had a good grip on the rim on that dunk, and hung on for dear life, it is certain he would have suffered a very serious head or neck injury. At that speed, with that blatant a foul, he would have spun and landed head first were it not for that death grip on the rim that saved him. BAD FORM, officials.
  • The Flash were +8 in personal fouls, but a whopping -21 in free throw attempts. The undersized Flash just found themselves forced to foul the Viper’s aggressive, persistent attacks on the basket.
  • The Vipers have a pushing offense led by some very capable guards, especially Jere McNeal. McNeal gave the Flash fits all night, scoring 26 points on 10 of 21 shooting (0 of 3 from the arc), with 7 assists. Anyway, the Vipers collected fouls on their aggressive attacks on the rim.
  • The Utah Flash had 28 assists to the Vipers’ 13.  Ron DuPree had 8 assists, and Brian Hamilton had 5 assists in just 19:14 of play.  The Flash are unselfish on offense, and in that way are a real pleasure to watch.
  • The Flash opened the second half scoring on their first 3 shot attempts, but more importantly, they held the Vipers to 0 of 5 shooting to open the 3rd quarter. The defensive game the Flash played the second half was night and day to their defense of the first half.
  • The Vipers constantly lost track of Tony Gaffney. According to my shot chart, only 1 of Gaffney’s 19 shot attempts was outside the paint, and 16 of Gaffney’s 23 points must have  been dunks.
  • Speaking of Gaffney, he had 4 blocks and altered many other shots. Gaffney is a great on the ball defender, but is likewise an outstanding help defender as well, particularly when an opponent has beaten his man and appears to have an easy two points ahead of him.
  • Tony Gaffney, with his frequent dunks, impressive defensive plays, and perpetually good natured smile is quickly becoming a crowd favorite.
  • In the closing minutes of the game, the Flash came out of a time out with a play that looked to be run to get Kevin Kruger a side 3. While they executed, the Vipers literally knocked Kruger to the floor and the play was broken, but the players still found a layup for Brian Hamilton (if memory serves). It made me think about how savvy this veteran team is, and how well they might do if they were allowed out of the Flash’s strict, structured half court offense a little more often.
  • The Flash were -14 in rebounds. The Flash lost a lot when they lost Bennet Davis to injury, Carlos Wheeler to trade and Lance Allred to, well, his own stupidity. What Utah lacks in size, they make up with heart, but the by-product of their zealous hustle sends opponents to the free throw line too often. Of course, the Flash could match fire with fire if they pushed the tempo a bit more, got into their offense sooner, attacked the rim more frequently, and used the half court not to just run sets but to look for scoring opportunities a bit sooner when opposing defenses fall asleep.
  • I was very impressed with how the Flash battled back into the game. Much respect.

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