The Santa Cruz Warriors were defeated by the Oklahoma City Blue, losing 124-104 in the deciding third game in the best of three series of the Western Conference Semifinals on April 10. With the defeat, the Warriors were eliminated from the D-League playoffs.
The Warriors started strong, landing 10 of 11 of its first shots. Santa Cruz forced Oklahoma City into an early timeout with 6 minutes, 17 seconds left in the first quarter and a 27-11 lead, capped by forward James Southerland’s 3-pointer. But by halftime, the Blues surged back to lead 64-60.
Neck and neck third quarter, Santa Cruz narrowly finished with a lead at 89-86. In the final six minutes of the game, Oklahoma stole the lead with a more than 20-point swing.
Oklahoma City overwhelmed the Warriors on offense with a relentless combination of scoring from 2- and 3-pointers — center Dakari Johnson was practically unstoppable — striking on nine out of 14 field goals for 24 points. Guard Daniel Hamilton also hit seven out of 10 3-pointers, tallying 30 points.
For Santa Cruz, shooting guard Jabari Brown and Southerland scored 51 of the Warriors’ 104 points. Brown tied Hamilton with a game high 30 points off the bench. Damian Jones supplied 17 points and tied a game high of 12 rebounds.
Despite the loss, the Warriors were one of the D-League’s top offensive teams, ranking first in rebounds, fourth in assists and fifth in points per game.
“A common thread to our success as a basketball team has been head coach Casey Hill,” said director of public and community relations Gina Antoniello. “In his four years at the helm, Casey has built a community in the locker room that values respect, trust and chemistry.”
Santa Cruz concludes its regular season with a 31-19 record, finishing second in the Pacific Division. The Warriors were the only D-League team to have sold out each consecutive home game this season — a streak that extends to 38 games dating to March 12, 2016 of last season.
Since the franchise relocated from North Dakota in 2012, the Warriors have made the playoffs four of the past five seasons and won the NBA Development League championship in 2015.
The early postseason exit marks the first time the Warriors failed to win a playoff series after the franchise made three consecutive D-League finals appearances from 2013-15.
Head coach Casey Hill and starting center Damian Jones each received the D-League’s Coach and Player of the Month award, respectively, for March.
• That month, Jones averaged a 65.4 percent shooting success. Hill lead the team to an 11-2 record.
• Jones averaged 17.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in 30.4 minutes during March.
• The Warriors had two players participate in the 2017 NBA D-League All-Star weekend: Dennis Clifford represented the Western Conference in the All-Star game and Scott Wood was crowned Three-Point Contest champion.
• The Warriors were awarded four NBA D-League honors — Hill received Coach of the Month honors for games played in March 2017, Jones received Performer of the Month honors in March 2017 and Phil Pressey and Jabari Brown each received Performer of the Week honors in March 2017.
• Hill notched his 100th win as head coach of the Santa Cruz Warriors on February 3, 2017 with a 98-92 win over the Iowa Energy at Kaiser Permanente Arena.