Preston Knowles: Game-winning shot!Chr1stopher | Thursday, January 12th, 2012 | No Comments »
By KYLE LEATH
RENO, Nev. – Preston Knowles’ 3-pointer from the right corner with 5.6 seconds left capped a wild finish as the Springfield Armor closed out play in the NBA D-League Showcase in Reno with a thrilling 100-99 win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Thursday night at the Reno Events Center.
The Armor controlled the game for the first 46:16, but a 3-pointer by Rio Grande Valley’s Kelvin Lewis (15 points) gave the Vipers their first lead at 97-95 with 1:14 to play.
“Wow, not the way I drew it up, but we will take it,” Armor coach Bob Mackinnon said.
Springfield led by as many as 15 points and withstood a couple of earlier Rio Grande Valley charges before the Lewis three.
The key play of the game also involved Lewis. With 15.9 left and the Vipers up 99-96, Springfield attempted to inbound the ball in the frontcourt and Lewis was called for a dead ball foul for holding Springfield’s Jerry Smith (12 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists). The result was one technical free throw by JamesOn Curry (13 points, 9 assists) to cut the lead to two with Springfield maintaining possession. Ten seconds later the Knowles (14 points) three sealed the deal.
“It was just one of those freak things,” MacKinnon said of the sequence. “After all we had given away, it just fell back in our laps.”
With the win, Springfield climbed back to .500 at 9-9 and sits third in the Eastern Conference.
The Armor came out hot from long range as they made seven first-quarter 3-pointers to build a 32-21 lead.
“We shot it well from behind the arc in the quarter,” MacKinnon said. “And we missed four or five lay-ups and tip-ins that could have put (us) over 40 points in the quarter.”
Springfield saw a double-digit third-quarter lead shrink to one when a dunk by Viper Greg Smith (13 points, 10 rebounds) cut the lead to 72-71. The run was primarily led by a parade to the free-throw line, with 13 points from the charity stripe in the period. For the game, Rio Grande Valley held a huge advantage, outscoring Springfield 36-18 at the line.
“The free-throw differential was huge,” MacKinnon agreed. “We seemed to get a little lazy and started reaching a lot in the third. That got them back in it, but we got a handle back on it in the fourth.”
The Armor had six players in double figures, led by 18 points from Damien Johnson. L.D. Williams had 17 and Jeff Foote added 16 and seven rebounds.
The Armor returns home to host Maine on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the MassMutual Center.
NOTES: In a quick visit during the halftime break, New Jersey Nets Director of Basketball Operations Milton Lee commented on the play of the Armor: “Bob (MacKinnon) is doing a great job of installing the concepts and style of play that Avery (Johnson) has with the Nets. I am very impressed each time I see Springfield play.”