After the Rio Grande Valley Vipers reached the sixth G-League Finals in the franchise's history, it was a waiting game to see who they would be facing. A win by the 905 Raptors meant a trip up north to start the Finals. A win by the Bluecoats of Delaware meant the Finals would be starting in Edinburg, Texas. After last night, the Vipers now know who they will be facing.
The Blue Coats pulled off the upset, winning on the 905’s home court 143-139. This will be the Blue Coats' second straight trip to the Finals after losing last year's Finals match to the Lakeland Magic.
The Vipers are playing in their second G-League Finals in three years after winning the title in 2019 and were led by former Houston Rocket Isaiah Hartenstein, who won Finals MVP. As mentioned earlier, the Vipers have made six trips to the Finals and are looking for their fourth championship.
Vipers and Blue Coats' strengths and weaknesses
The Vipers and Blue Coats are the two top-scoring teams in the league, with the Vipers averaging 124.5 points per game in the regular season and the Blue Coats averaging 121.6 per game. The high tempo that the Blue Coats play at fits right in with the Viper's game plan. The Blue Coats were the number one shot-blocking team (Vipers are second) in the G-League but will most likely be without big man Charles Bassey, the rookie out of Western Conference who suffered an injury last week.
This could become a significant factor in the series, considering the Vipers are the number one rebounding team in the league. Mfiondu Kabengele is one of the best rebounders in the league and is coming off a huge 27-point, 10-rebound game, and with the injury, the Blue Coats start no one taller than 6'7”. Their other big man Paul Reed is currently playing with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Vipers, however, will need to limit their turnovers. The Blue Coats are number one in steals per game as a team. The Vipers are last in turnovers per game mainly because of their frenetic pace on offense. The Vipers had one of their best games taking care of the ball in the Conference Finals, finishing with only six turnovers.
The key matchups in this year's G-League Finals
There will be multiple matchups to watch in Tuesday's opening game. First, you have Daishen Nix vs. Myles Powell at the point guard position. As Houston fans know, Nix has spent time with the Rockets, recently playing in a handful of games before being assigned to the Vipers before Rio Grande’s Western Conference Finals matchup vs. the Agua Caliente Clippers.
Nix played in the Rocket's loss to the Raptors and the next night was in the starting lineup for the Vipers. Nix scored 22 points and dished out seven assists in the win. The Blue Coats are led by Myles Powell, who is under a two-way contract with the 76ers. He led the Blue Coats in scoring on the year and just dropped 34 in the Conference Finals. Whoever can limit their team's turnovers and control the game will most likely control the series.
Of course, you cant talk about matchups without mentioning the League MVP Trevelin Queen. Even with his shot not falling last game, Queen made up for it in other areas. Playing good defense, rebounding, and at the very least being decoy on the offensive end opened up the game for other Vipers. Queen had eight rebounds and seven huge assists, especially in the second half.
It will be interesting to see if the Blue Coats have Shaquille Harrison, who won Defensive Player of The Year, shadowing Queen during the series.
As we mentioned earlier, the Vipers will have the size advantage in the paint. With Kabengele, Lamb, and Tyler Bey, they should be able to control the boards and the paint. If the Vipers dominate the paint and are able to get out on the break, it will be difficult for the Blue Coats to keep up.
With all that being said, the Vipers have been the best team all year long in the G-League. Coach Abdelfattah has been the best coach, evidenced by the Coach of The Year Award he won last week. The Vipers also have the best homecourt advantage as well. This all adds up to the Vipers being the favorite to win their fourth championship in franchise history.
Tomorrow's Game 1 will be the season's first matchup for the Vipers and Blue Coats.
Game time 8 central time April 12th on ESPN 2