Even with one arm, Matt Costello was a force to be reckoned with.
The Spurs’ two-way player set a G League playoff record with 11 blocked shots while scoring six points and grabbing six rebounds, helping Austin beat the South Bay Lakers 104-93 in Western Conference Final Thursday night.
“I knew I couldn’t do much defensively or rebounding the ball, but I knew I had a right arm that worked,” he said. “I just stuck it up there and hoped for the best. They were attacking the rim and I stood there and tried not to get dunked on.”
The Spurs will host either the Erie BayHawks or Toronto 905 — which face off in the Eastern Conference Final on Friday night — in the G League finals beginning Sunday at 6 p.m. Game 2 will be on the road Tuesday night and, if necessary, Game 3 will be in Cedar Park on Friday night.
Derrick White led the team with 35 points, making at team-best five 3-pointers, and had seven rebounds. Darrun Hilliard had 20 points to go along with two rebounds and two assists. Nick Johnson led the bench with 19 points and eight rebounds.
It was the second straight dominant performance from Costello, who scored 18 points and had team-highs in rebounds (seven) and blocks (four) as the Spurs blew out the RGV Vipers 117-90 in the conference semifinals on Monday night.
“I’m happy for Matt because he’s had some injuries that have kept him on the sideline,” Spurs head coach Blake Ahearn said. “For him to come in and have that impact, he’s a great guy and gives us great effort. I’d probably look like a great defender if I was out there with him.”
Defensively, Austin held the high-powered Lakers to 25 or fewer points in three quarters. South Bay made just two of 18 3-point attempts. The Spurs were 14-39 from beyond the arc.
“It was one of those things that had to do with our defense,” Ahearn said. “We were aggressive and not letting them get good looks. Guarding the 3-point line has helped us in the last two games.”
Austin scored the first nine points of the game featuring two blocks, rebounds and buckets from Costello.
South Bay fought back to take the lead midway through the opening quarter, and that momentum continued into the second quarter as the Lakers extended their lead to as many as eight points.
White made 6 of the 10 shots he took in the second quarter and scored 14 points in the frame, helping the Spurs tie the game at 51 apiece at halftime.
“I started the game off a little sluggish,” White said. “When I got back in during the second quarter, I tried to be a little more aggressive and make a few shots and go from there.”
White came out of the half hot and hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Spurs an early second-half lead. The run continued with a trio of Costello blocks, a White dunk and a Hilliard 3-pointer give the Spurs an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter.
South Bay kept pace with Austin in the fourth quarter, but an 8-2 run halfway through the quarter ended any hopes of a comeback.
“We knew they were a great team and it wasn’t going to be a blowout,” Hilliard said. “We just had to withstand it and keep moving on. They were just giving us (3-pointers) and hopefully we just take them we just take them with confidence and knock them down, which we did.”
Austin is looking to hang a championship banner for the second time in franchise history. In 2012 the group won its only NBA D League title as the Austin Toros.
“Whoever we have, they’re two very well-coached teams and very disciplined,” Ahearn said. “We’re more about what we do as opposed to what other people do, so being consistent is the one thing we talk about.”