Kevin Kruger scored 23 points and Ronald Dupree had a double-double to lead the Utah Flash to a 94-81 victory over the Bakersfield Jam in the first round of the 2009 NBA Development League Playoffs Wednesday at the McKay Center.
The first playoff victory in Flash franchise history advances Utah into a second-round home game on Monday, April 20 against the winner of Thursday?s Iowa-Dakota game. That game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. at the McKay Events Center.
“It gets tougher and tougher as you keep advancing in the playoffs,” Flash coach Brad Jones said. “We were 0-2 against both the Wizards and the Energy this season, so our next round game will be a challenge.”
Kruger made 8-of-16 field goal attempts for the Flash, who entered the playoffs as the D-League’s second seed. Kruger also added six rebounds and six assists. Dupree finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“(Kruger’s) in a stretch here where he’s just playing terrific,” Jones added. “He’s really stepped up and led us in these last few games.”
Utah took a 20-17 lead into the second quarter before a Mateen Cleaves lay-up gave the Jam their first lead of the game with 4:25 remaining in the first half. Derrick Byars connected on a bucket to extend the Bakersfield lead to 39-34 with just over a minute remaining in the second quarter. But back-to-back three-pointers from Gavin Grant and Kruger helped send the Flash into the halftime break down 41-40.
The Flash pulled ahead for good at 42-41 on a J.R. Giddens lay-up on the first possession of the third quarter and never trailed again. Utah extended its lead to 12 points with 1:14 left in the third quarter after Morris Almond connected on a three-pointer.
Bakersfield cut the Flash lead to six with 8:16 left in the game, but back-to-back steals and open lay-ups from Kruger and Dupree put the Flash up 10 and sealed the victory.
“Those steals kind of broke their backs,” Kruger said. “They hung around, but that pushed the lead up to 10 points and made it tough to come back.”
Giddens, on assignment from the Boston Celtics, knocked down 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Almond, on assignment from the Utah Jazz, contributed 15 points off the Flash bench.
Trey Johnson led the Jam with 23 points, while Cleaves added 15 points. Justin Reed notched 16 points for the Jam and Terrance Thomas contributed 11 points off the Jam bench.