While the Golden State Warriors continue the ever-dominant march toward the NBA playoffs, their D-League counterpart in Santa Cruz are in the midst of a playoff run of their own and are considered the favorites to bring home a championship this season.
Santa Cruz had made the D-League Finals the last two seasons, so it really is looking like a third time is the charm.
The Sea Dubs finished the regular season a franchise best 35-15, good enough to tie for the best record in the D-League. The team rattled off an 11-game win streak, also the best mark in franchise history, and have won 18 of their last 20 games.
They also developed James Michael McAdoo into a quality contributor off the bench for Golden State. On assignment last Friday, McAdoo dropped 25 points on 11-of-20 from the field and played with an air of confidence, knowing he was the best player on the floor for either team.
Four teams from each conference make the postseason in the D-League as the Warriors swept the Oklahoma City Blue (yes, that is their name) 2-0 in a best-of-three series. In what can only be described as basketball synergy, the Santa Cruz squad has a date with destiny with the Austin Spurs (the D-League affiliate of San Antonio) in the conference finals.
Here’s Santa Cruz Warriors play-by-play man Kevin Danna comparing the scoring between Austin and Santa Cruz, who split the season series 2-2.
Combined score in 4 regular season meetings:
Santa Cruz Warriors 411, Austin Spurs 410
— Kevin Danna (@kevo408) April 13, 2015
Ognjen Kuzmic has spent most of this season on assignment in the D-League. In 29 regular season games with Santa Cruz, Kuzmic averaged 12.8 points and 12 rebounds in a little more than 30 minutes a contest.
In the regular season finale, the Bosnian Beast scored 30 points on 77% from the field in a critical game that gave Santa Cruz the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and its first division title in franchise history.
Fittingly, the Santa Cruz team is much similar to their Golden State counterpart, in more ways than one.
Santa Cruz runs a similar style offense, as they finished the regular season second in assists per contest (26.1), but the top team, the Reno Bighorns played a much faster pace than the Warriors (116.34 – 102.19).
One of the biggest offensive contributors this season has been the elder splash brother Mychel Thompson. In the team’s series-clinching victory against Oklahoma City, Mychel dropped 21 points last week as his brother Klay looked on, shooting 6-for-10 from the field including an unconscious 5-of-7 from three point range.
On the season, Thompson is averaging 14.2 points and 3.4 rebounds on 45.8% from the field.
Mychel Thompson hits the 3, and his brother Klay simply nods in approval.
— Sea Dubs Central (@SeaDubsCentral) April 11, 2015
There was also the matter of a certain bulldog on the sidelines of the Warriors game.
Klay really brought Rocco courtside. Legend. https://t.co/4w3zoCHVqu
— Jordan Ramirez (@JRAM_91) April 11, 2015
Rocco is at the game?! https://t.co/NzxAFBRzoW
— Julie Phayer (@juliephayer) April 11, 2015
To clear up the bulldog controversy, it was not Rocco courtside, but Posey, team President Jim Weyermann’s dog.
Conversely, the Warriors also led the D-League in defensive rating with 99.6 points given up per 100 possessions (the only team in the D-League to have a rating less than 100).
Summer league and training camp invite Aaron Craft was named the D-League’s Defensive Player of The Year last week. The Ohio State alum led the NBADL in steals (2.5) per game as well as assist/turnover ratio (3.56). Craft showed his durability this season by starting in all 50 regular season games for Santa Cruz.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) April 11, 2015
He’s improved on the offensive side of the ball over the course of this season. If he continues to develop the way he has this year, I fully expect Craft to wear a Golden State uniform next season, one way or another.
The Santa Cruz Warriors series opens on Friday in Austin at 5:00 pm, and returns to Santa Cruz for game two on Sunday at 5:30. Game three (if necessary) is scheduled for Monday at 7:00 pm.
The D-League has also stepped its game up this year, by broadcasting all its playoff games on ESPN (on a combination of either ESPN 3, ESPNEWS or ESPN U). Games are normally broadcasted live over YouTube.
Here is some general info on the Santa Cruz Warriors:
Where do they play? What’s the atmosphere like?
Santa Cruz plays in a 2,500-plus seat arena in downtown Santa Cruz off Front Street, just a minute or two away from the Beach Boardwalk. They games are generally sold out with an energy that’s often described as a mini-Oracle. The arena is one of, if not, the loudest in the entire NBA Development League, in part because the organization has done a great job of branding the team.
Are playoff tickets expensive?
The cheapest tickets go for $17. The most expensive court side seats go for $160. There’s a seat for everyone if you want to go. With the arena being such a small, intimate venue, there really isn’t a bad seat in the place. With their next game this Sunday against Austin, it’d be a good time to check out the little Warriors that could before the season ends.
Why should I go visit a Santa Cruz Warriors game?
It’ll be a nice warm-up to the Golden State Warriors postseason (who open their playoff series this weekend as well). It’s part of the experience as a fan to visit the Warriors’ little brother squad. While some might feel priced out by Golden State during the postseason, Santa Cruz offers Warriors experience at an affordable price.
Plus, they’ve got a dancing turtle for a mascot. Another reminder that Golden State is still missing a mascot of its own. Check out Mav’Riks’ moves.
How do I purchase Santa Cruz Warriors tickets?
Head to santacruzbasketball.com.