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Venom From The Valley: Vipers go 2-2 as young guns struggle

RGV struggled against the Suns, but bounced back for two big wins at home.

JP Tokoto is a huge benefit to the Vipers’ up tempo attack, and is great on ball defensively.
Rio Grande Valley Vipers

Rio Grande Valley Vipers: 101

Northern Arizona Suns: 110

RGV shot 27% from three-point range (never going to win like that with this team), and turned the ball over 20 times in a loss to Northern Arizona. Johnny O’Bryant and Elijah Millsap led the Suns offensively, and got the Vipers’ bigs in foul trouble. Darius Morris led RGV, tallying 29 points and 11 boards.

Vipers: 106

Suns: 111

It was another cold night shooting for the Vipers, and another well-rounded performance from the Suns. The Vipers led into the fourth quarter, but NAS went on a run to take the double from RGV last week. Darius Morris was the leading scorer again, finishing with another double-double.

RGV Vipers: 114

Reno Bighorns: 103

RGV overcame 32 points from Malachi Richardson, and a very game Bighorns team, to stay undefeated against Reno so far this season. JP Tokoto went 9/11 from the floor, finishing with 22 points, to go along with 10 rebounds. Gary Payton II and Kyle Wiltjer both hit four threes, scoring 23 and 18, respectively.

RGV Vipers: 126

Westchester Knicks: 109

There was matinee basketball this week in South Texas. The Vipers were able to handle the Knicks, despite an odd, 11 a.m. Tuesday tipoff. The offensive attack was well balanced with Darius Morris, Kyle Wiltjer and Chris Johnson all going over 20 points. Chinanu Onuaku added a big double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Carson’s Commentary Trifecta:

  • Darius Morris is a great, consistent veteran point guard for RGV, but the offense seems to run at a faster tempo with the speedy Isaiah Taylor. That type of attack puts teams on their heels and makes RGV a nightmare to defend.
  • If Gary Payton II can be more consistent with his shooting, which has been improved from his time at Oregon State, it will make it much more difficult of a decision to go under screens while defending him. If a defender goes over, he can blow by him and dunk. Or, he can set himself and knock down a three if his man goes under. He went 0/2 and 0/7 from the three point line against Northern Arizona and 0/4 against the Knicks. That needs to get better.
  • The slimmed down, but still huge, Joshua Smith has been good off the bench or starting for Rio Grande Valley. He’s hard to defend with his back to the basket, and the weight loss has given him a quicker first step past defenders.

Rental Rockets Report:

Chinanu Onuaku:

7.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last week. Nanu struggled with foul trouble and finishing around the basket in the Vipers’ two games at Northern Arizona. The Houston Rockets assignee is in top 10 in the D-League in rebounding.

Kyle Wiltjer:

16.2 points a game last week, including a 22-point, 50% from the floor shooting performance against Westchester.

What’s Next?

Dec. 16 and 17 at Salt Lake City Stars

The Utah Jazz affiliate Stars are the lowest scoring team in the NBADL and, imagine that, they also have its worst record. The Stars did play well against RGV on Dec. 5, despite dropping a five-point game on the road. Marcus Paige and Sundiata Gaines went for 20-plus each in that matchup.