EL SEGUNDO – The Los Angeles D-Fenders defeated the visiting Reno Bighorns, 128-118, on Thursday at the Toyota Sports Center.
Los Angeles (8-3) was once again paced by Vander Blue’s 22 points, his 10th performance with at least 20 points this year. Jeff Ayres finished with 19 points and eight rebounds while shooting a perfect 7-of-7 from the field in only his third game with the team this season. Justin Harper notched LA’s only double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds), while Josh Magette racked up 15 assists as the center of the D-Fenders offense. Lakers assignee Ivica Zubac finished with 12 points and eight rebounds in a night that was hampered by foul trouble.
Reno (2-8) had a pair of 20-point scorers in Lamar Patterson and Skal Labissiere, who finished with 27 points and 25 points, respectively. Labissiere, on assignment from the Sacramento Kings, added 10 rebounds to earn the only other double-double of the game. Three other Bighorns players finished in double figures.
The D-Fenders got out to a crawling start to begin the game. LA finished the quarter with a lowly 33.3 field goal percentage, converting on only one of their 11 attempts from three-point range as the offense struggled to find much consistency. Reno used 16 points in the paint to build up a 24-18 lead at the end of the first frame.
But in the second quarter, Los Angeles started to find a rhythm, and it was largely a result of beating the Bighorns at their own game. Zubac and Ayres, combining for 17 points in the frame, took the battle to the interior as the D-Fenders enjoyed a 24-8 advantage in points in the paint. Defensively, the D-Fenders allowed Reno to convert on only 6-of-20 attempts, giving the home team a 59-50 halftime lead.
The D-Fenders would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the contest, eventually going up by as much as 19 points in the third quarter. Five points is the closest that Reno would get to tying the game in the second half.
Overall, the bench played a big hand in the win by outscoring the Bighorns’ non-starters, 60-36. Los Angeles would shoot 51.7 percent on the day while narrowly winning the rebounding battle, 48-43.