When the D-Fenders and Jam square off Thursday, April 19 for game 1 of their semifinal match-up, it will be the fifth time the two squads have tangled in the 2011-2012 D-League season. Splitting their season series 4-4, this three game set will be the deciding factor of who deserves Southern California D-League bragging rights. The Jam have proven to be the D-Fenders’ ultimate foe this season defeating them 4-times in the regular the season, the Idaho Stampede were the only other team to get near that mark with three wins coming against the D-League’s record winning squad. Both teams enter Game 1 at the Jam Events Center taking the first two games of their respective first round series, and they will need two more wins to propel them into the Championship round to cap off their well established competitive rivalry.
The D-Fenders should come as no surprise at arriving in the semifinal of the D-League playoffs. They took down last year’s champs, the Iowa Energy 114-103, and 94-92. The D-Fenders are without Jamario Moon who added a nice boost to Eric Musselman’s squad late this season, Moon was called up to the Charlotte Bobcats. Moon was enjoying a nice run with the D-Fenders averaging 17.7 points. L.A. will now have to rely on their latest group of stat sheet stuffers, Malcolm Thomas, Elijah Millsap, Orien Greene, and Mardy Collins. L.A. will be the favorite in this one-seed vs. sixth-seed match-up, but they will have to earn every bucket.
Bakersfield enters game 1 with reasonable confidence knowing that they’ve split the season series with L.A. Trey Johnson and Brian Butch were the Jam’s standouts in their last contest which wrapped up their series against the Dakota Wizards. Johnson had a game-high 24 points while pulling down 5 rebounds and Butch added 12 points to go along with 17 rebounds. The Jam will need these two to keep playing at a high level to compete with the sheer talent that the D-Fenders have, and if they can steal that ever so important game 1 in El Segundo they may just be able to pull off the upset.
Not to get all David vs. Goliath on you, but the Bakersfield Jam remain one of the D-League’s non-NBA team owned or operated franchises whereas the D-Fenders are. There have been arguments as to which ownership model can better suit a franchise, and which method ultimately lends itself to a more successful product both on the court and off. However, judging by both team’s home court venues you would not be able to guess which is which. Both play in very intimate settings, but both home courts will boast an intense feel to what has become a very fierce rivalry. This series should provide plenty of playoff drama, and plenty of passion fueled basketball. Enjoy.