AUSTIN, Tex. — It’s a tale of two teams clashing in this year’s NBA G League Finals.
After one of the best second halves of the season, the No. 1 Austin Spurs dominated the Western Conference in the playoffs, earning a first-round bye and two double-digit victories in the NBA G League Playoffs.
On the other side, the Raptors 905 head to the Finals as a four-seed from the East, looking to become just the second team in league history to successfully defend its title (the Asheville Altitude repeated in 2005).
But for both sides, it all comes down to what’s put on the court now during the best-of-three NBA G League Finals.
“With all the sweat and hard work, you feel like you have a right to win,” said 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse. “With a team like Austin, they have that mindset as well. So it will become a battle of will and who wants it the most.”
Stackhouse has seen instant success since taking over as head coach of Raptors 905 just a season ago.
He is looking to lead the 905 to a repeat after compiling a 70-30 regular season record over his two seasons. The 2017 NBA G League Coach of the Year has preached defense first, having his team atop the league in defensive rating both seasons, allowing a league-low 97.3 points per game this season.
“The culture that he’s built during his first year, he’s been riding with it this season,” said Raptors two-way player Malcolm Miller. “It’s working hard and being as perfect as possible. No team is going to be perfect, but the closer you get to that, the better you’re going to be.”
In the 905’s run to the Finals, they have been led by two-way player Lorenzo Brown, who has taken the postseason by storm with 23.3 points, 7.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in three wins.
For the Spurs, they are looking to claim their second title in franchise history, as they were crowned champions for the first time back in 2012.
But this season has shown the synergy between San Antonio and Austin, which has been reflected in the tremendous play of two-way players Darrun Hilliard and Matt Costello, along with assignee Derrick White.
Along with White, Austin has helped develop the games of six other San Antonio players, including Dejounte Murray, Danny Green, David Bertans, Brandon Paul, Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes, along with others around the NBA.
“Austin develops players and gets them to where they want to be,” said Hilliard. “It gives you faith knowing that it’s worked out in the past with a lot of Austin guys.”
White, a first-round draft pick in this past June’s NBA Draft, has been a prime example of someone embracing the experience in the G League. Between playing with both San Antonio and Austin, White has burst onto the scene as one of the top players in the minor league this postseason.
The Colorado product has averaged 27.5 points per game on 50 percent shooting during Austin’s two playoff victories, including dropping 35 points in the Western Conference Final.
“Derrick is such a great player. He’s tremendously athletic,” said Hilliard. “He’s a sponge who just wants to get better all the time, and you can see that on the court from how he’s playing.”
For both teams, it all begins Monday night, as the Spurs host Game 1 at the H-E-B Center (7 PM ET, ESPNU).