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Queen Is King As Vipers Run Past Blue Coats In Game 1

By Kelsea O'Brien | April 13, 2022

If there was ever such a thing as a perfect matchup, it was on display tonight between the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the Delaware Blue Coats. Reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year Shaquille Harrison entered the packed arena of the G League’s Most Valuable Player, Trevelin Queen. But it was Queen and the Vipers who came out victorious in Game 1 of the 2022 G League Finals, putting on a scoring display en route to a 145-128 victory at Bert Ogden Arena on Tuesday night.

Queen torched the Blue Coats offensively, pouring in 44 points in just 31 minutes of play to move into second place on the G League Finals single-game scoring list. He may have had a shot to challenge Darius Rice’s record of 52 points set in 2007, but spent much of the 4th quarter on the bench with Rio Grande Valley enjoying a large lead. But Queen’s scintillating scoring display was just one of numerous record-setting performances for the Vipers on the evening.

Mfiondu Kabengele – the nephew of Hall of Fame shot-blocker Dikembe Mutombo – set a new G League Finals record with 8 blocks, a record previously set by Scott VanderMeer of the Iowa Wolves in 2011. Kabengele also added 19 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double. Daishen Nix (31 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) and Anthony Lamb (10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) became the first pair of teammates to record triple-doubles in the same game in G League Playoffs history, while the Vipers’ 145 points set a new record for points scored in a G League Finals game – coincidentally surpassing their own previous record of 141 set in 2011.

The absence of Charlie Brown Jr., whose 28 points helped the Blue Coats secure the Eastern Conference Championship, could have severely impacted Delaware’s offense, but was cushioned by the impact of Patrick McCaw. The three-time NBA champion started in the place of Brown and finished a single rebound shy of a double-double with 24 points and 9 rebounds. After missing the Eastern Conference Finals against Raptors 905, rookie Jaden Springer returned to the lineup for Delaware and posted a quick 8 points, but didn’t play in the second half after re-aggravating his knee injury. The in-game losses of Springer and Aaron Henry (foot) were too much for the Philadelphia affiliate to overcome. 

Sixth man extraordinaire Myles Powell was once again electric from the bench for the Blue Coats with 22 points, and Harrison continued to fill the scoring void on top of his defensive duties with a full stat line of 21 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. But the Blue Coats’ bench was unable to dig out of the hole caused by Rio Grande Valley’s starting lineup. 57 of Delaware’s 128 points came from their bench compared to just 31 from the Vipers, while Rio Grande Valley’s starting backcourt scored 43 points in the first half alone.

The back-and-forth of the first half saw six lead changes with Myles Powell and Trevelin Queen trading threes to head into halftime before the home team took over for the remaining 24 minutes. The energetic start that has become expected from Delaware allowed them 10 steals in the first half alone. The extra game and travel appeared to take its toll on Delaware, while the well-rested and mentally focused Vipers outran the Blue Coats, beating them at their own game and setting new NBA G League records in the process. The Blue Coats advanced to the Finals in large part due to their ability to chase down every loose ball and outrun their opponents on every possession, operating at the fastest pace in the G League. Though they take their name from a different deadly reptile, the Vipers played with the speed of a rattlesnake, outrebounding Delaware 70-53 and living up to their label as the top rebounding team in the G League. 

The series moves to Delaware for game two on Thursday, April 14, where the Vipers will try to win their fourth G League championship while the Blue Coats try to even the series at home and force a decisive Game 3 on April 17. Tickets can be purchased here and the game will be live on ESPNews at 8:00 PM ET.

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