How do you recover when the leading scorer for both your team and the NBA’s D-League is suddenly not in your line-up hours before a game?
Easy, you hold your opponent to only 86 points.
The Utah Flash (10-7), sans scoring threat Morris Almond, faced the potent Rio Grand Vipers (9-8) who, coming into the match-up, held the second highest scoring average in the league with 111 ppg.
Almond, called up by the Jazz on Tuesday, left the team just a day before the Flash squared off against the Vipers. Trying to avoid being snake-bit on their own home court, the Flash responded with a 102-86 victory at the McKay Center.
The Flash was able to fill the gapping whole left by the absence of Almond’s 29.8 ppg average with six players scoring in double figures.
Standouts included 16 points from Michael Cuffee (who replaced Almond in the line-up) and 15 points by Andre Ingram, hitting 3-for-4 from the 3-point line. Cuffee was good to the last drop, and played a solid game for the Flash earning him praises from his coach, Brad Jones.
"I don’t want to act like I’m real smart or whatever else." Jones said, "but I knew Ingram and Cuffee were going to play well tonight ’cause they have worked so hard all year long. They have had to kinda wait their time because we had [Gabe] Pruitt and of course Morris [Almond]. They have had a terrific attitude."
Aside from losing Almond, the Flash lost guard Gabe Pruitt in the early weeks of December to the Celtics, but Utah’s player woes pale in comparison to that of Vipers’ revolving-door roster. Having lost four players recently to NBA teams, Rio Grande showed signs of an offense adjusting to new roles but limited the Flash to only 16 points in the first quarter. However, the defense effort wasn’t enough the rest of the way
Center James Lang, with the subtle moves of a Cadillac, crashed the boards, made key shots from the paint, and ignited a 38 point sprint-out from halftime, putting the game just out of reach of the Vipers striking range. Lang finished with 10 points.