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Sons of Liberty: 87ers Drop Home Opener to Skyforce 115-103

Even in the NBA D-League, turning the ball over 29 times will usually result in a loss. The Delaware 87ers learned that lesson last night, falling to the Sioux Falls Skyforce 115-103.

I forgot to bring the battery to my camera last night, so we're going with this stock photo of Ronald Roberts.
I forgot to bring the battery to my camera last night, so we're going with this stock photo of Ronald Roberts.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Less than 36 hours before the Delaware 87ers' home opener, news trickled out that special guest Allen Iverson wouldn't be in attendance due to an illness. For a good part of the first quarter, it looked like the Sevens' offense would be a no-show as well.

Thanks to a sluggish start, the 87ers were down by double digits for most of last night's contest against the Sioux Falls Skyforce. A few spurts of hero ball by Melvin Johnson (20 points off of the bench) cut the deficit to single digits on a few occasions, but Delaware (3-2) dug itself too much of a hole to overcome, ultimately falling to the Skyforce, 115-103.

The lack of a true center hurt the Sevens right out of gate: 6'10" Sioux Falls forward Khem Birch had three first quarter blocks as the Skyforce dominated the paint en route to an early 25-11 lead. And while the Skyforce (3-2) did an exceptional job of moving the ball (12 assists on their first 13 baskets), it's clear that the Sevens still have quite a bit of work to do when it comes to their defensive rotations.

Skyforce point guard Larry Drew II (15 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds) was noticeably quicker than any of Delaware's playmakers: Nolan Smith (13 points, four assists) had his fair share of trouble checking the former UNC/UCLA standout, and Drew had his way with the 87ers' bench, specifically reserve point guard LaQuentin Miles.

When watching a D-League game, there's always that lone, nagging question residing on the fringe: Is there any NBA-caliber talent on the floor? And while there were a few players in last night's game with NBA experience to their credit (including the Sevens' Smith and Malcolm Lee), there was no one - with the possible exception of Ronald Roberts (who finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds after a scoreless first quarter) - that would cause most player personnel evaluators to sit up and take notice.

Once again, it should be pointed out that there's no one taller than 6'9" on the Sevens' roster: a reality that is both a gift and a curse, depending on the situation. Rebounding is obviously an issue (Delaware averages 43.2 RPG, 12th of out 18 teams in the D-League), and the 87ers average a mere 2.8 blocks per game. Conversely, the smaller lineups allow them to play a fairly uptempo offense (101.3 possessions per game), while causing havoc in the passing lanes on defense (10.8 steals per game).

Delaware employs a 4-out, 1-in motion offense much of the time, with Ronald Roberts (or whichever "big" happens to be in the game) as the lone player inside the three-point arc. The spacing and ball movement was there for the most part against the Skyforce - the Sevens were simply too reckless with the ball (29 turnovers) and didn't knock down enough open shots (7-for-23 from long range).

The 87ers are off until Friday when they close out the two-game homestand with a matchup against the Canton Charge. On Saturday, Delaware travels to Des Moines to face the Iowa Energy and the fourth-leading scorer in the D-League, Damien Wilkins (25.0 PPG).

News and Notes

  • 6 players scored in double figures for Sioux Falls, led by former Wyoming/James Madison guard A.J. Davis, who had a game-high 23 points. Forward Fuquan Edwin chipped in 22 points, while Birch tallied a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
  • Nolan Smith got his first start for the Sevens last night - D.J. Seeley, Jamal Jones, Ronald Roberts and Victor Rudd comprised the rest of the first unit. Roberts is the only member of the Sevens who has started all five games this season.
  • For those of you wondering about the Allen Iverson appearance, the 87ers announced that it will be rescheduled for a later date.
  • Among those in attendance were Sixers CEO Scott O'Neil and former Sevens head coach/current 76ers' scout Rod Baker.