The Santa Cruz Warriors(18-11) and the Los Angeles D-Fenders(12-17) will meet in a battle of West division teams this Wednesday, February 20 at Kaiser Permanente Arena.
It will mark the fourth time the two teams will have met this season. The Warriors have owned the D-Fenders as they are undefeated in the three prior meetings.
It is also a much needed chance to close the gap between them and the Bakersfield Jam(21-9) in the chase for first place in the West.
Be Ready to Battle
Even though the Warriors have won the three prior meetings, all three games have been closely contested.
In the first meeting the game was up for grabs in the final seconds as D-Fender guard Courtney Fortson missed the go-ahead lay-up and the put back rimmed out as well. The Warriors escaped with a 93-92 win.
The following game also came down to the wire as the D-Fenders fought back from 12 points down to cut the lead to five. Warriors' guard Stefhon Hannah would sink his free throws and lead them to a six point lead 99-93.
In their last meeting, Cam Jones went off for 22 points and the Warriors jumped out to a big lead in early in the game. The D-Fenders would make a comeback however as they went on a 13-3 run to end the game, but the Warriors would win by eight.
There is no quit in either team and it has shown throughout the season. Although the D-Fenders season has not gone how they expected it to go, they will still give the Warriors everything they can handle.
Height Isn't Everything
Courtney Fortson stands at 5 foot 11 inches, but he has game that reaches the rafters. He's averaging 18 points per game for the D-Fenders and has also been a solid defender despite his size.
He's also been shooting the lights out from three at 40 percent. The undersized guard is coming off a solid performance in the D-League All-Star game. He scored 20 points in just 20 minutes and showed that he can indeed throw down a dunk at his size.
It's been up and down for Fortson against the Warriors. In the first game he had an all around great performance with 24 points and six assist. The following game was a struggle for him as he shot just 4 of 16 and finished with 9 points. In the final meeting he scored 13 points.
The key for the Warriors will be Stefhon Hannah's on-ball defense. In the two games that Fortson struggled, Hannah bullied him from start to finish. It's what Hannah does best and he'll have to show up big if they want to limit Fortson.
Get Leslie Going
The last time Leslie stepped on a basketball court he ended up hoisting a well deserved Most Valuable Player Award. The hot play started since he was inserted back into the starting line-up after coming back from a groin injury.
In his last five games, not including the All-Star game, he has averaged 21.4 points per game. There is no doubt that Leslie is the best offensive player on the Warriors roster and when he gets going early there is little that any defender can do to stop him.
He's also been given more minutes in the month of February. The Warriors are 8-3 in games where Leslie has played 30 or more minutes this season. So simply said, keep him on the floor as long as possible.
Play Your Brand of Basketball
Most times it's easier said than done, but in the Warriors three wins against the D-Fenders they've done just that.
They have out shot them in field goal percentage in every game. For the Warriors to do this their defense has to be in full swing all game long.
They are a team that loves to get out and run and win the game with fastbreak points. That only happens when Taylor Griffin, Hilton Armstrong, Mickell Gladness and the other big men do their job. So even though everyone sees the breakaway dunks and lay-ups, they all start with solid box outs and rebounds down low.