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With 4:40 left in the third quarter, Osceola’s Trevelin Queen drove the lane and slammed home a two-handed dunk, screaming while hanging from the rim, while dropping to the ground and still after slipping to the floor – screaming as if in agony – when it was sheer ecstasy – the whole way.
Thirty seconds later he scored again, the Vipers took a timeout and Queen walked off, jawing with Trhae Mitchell.
RGV fans can appreciate Queen’s intensity and skills – they saw it up close two seasons ago when he was named the NBA G League MVP and Finals MVP while leading the Vipers to their fourth championship in 2021-22 season.
Queen returned to the place he once called home, Bert Ogden Arena, and electrified his team and the crowd with a game-leading 35-point performance, including a windmill dunk that silenced everyone with 1:20 remaining asthe visiting Magic spoiled the Vipers home-opener with a 143-127 victory to open a six-game home stand.
“That’s just the way Trevelin plays and you can see it meant more to them than us. They wanted it a lot more,” Vipers head coach Kevin Buleston said. “The energy they had, Trevelin got that group going and they fought and played hard and didn’t let up.
“We are not a team year, we’re a bunch of individuals. No excuses. There hasn’t been a lot of practice time, our two ways have been on assignment but we’re just not a team right now.”
The game took a 180 midway through the second quarter and the Vipers couldn’t get back on track. It remained high paced, but more on Osceola’s terms and not the “calm frantic” style the Vipers started with.
“The effort was inconsistent and that’s the issue right now even with some of our wins,” said Burleson, whose team dropped to 2-2 while the Magic improved to 3-2. “We played hard, but then at times we just tried to go off of talent and I think it catches up with you – we did some good things, but tonight wasn’t our night.”
With 8:30 remaining in just the second quarter and a break in the action, three Osceola starters stood around, bent over with their hands on the bottom of their uniform trunks, trying to catch their breath, and the Vipers.
The nonstop track meet was clearly in favor of the home team. The Magic couldn’t keep up at that crazed pace.
The team that has won four NBA G League championships, has appeared in seven championship series and has made a high-scoring, never saw a shot they didn’t like style of basketball a norm, looked faster than ever at times, pushing the ball relentlessly in their home opener, at least for the first 18-20 minutes.
There was a little more intensity for the first quarter of the first home game of the season and it only grew. Maybe it was the fans’ excitement seeing some of their favorite Vipers veterans return. Or, it could’ve been those same fans thrilled to see former fan favorites, Queen and Chris Walker return, albeit with Osceola.
Osceola also had NBA dunk champion Mac McClung, who dunked off a steal in the first quarter for a 15-8 lead. Prior to that play, Jalen Lecque got those in attendance on their feet, taking McClung, who scored a career-high 44 points on Friday against Memphis coast to coast for a had 25 for the Magic. Four Magic starters scored 20 or more points.
Cam Whitmore’s debut inside the Vipers Pit was also highly anticipated and fans clearly weren’t disappointed with seeing the skills by the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick, and the 20th overall choice of the 2023 NBA draft. Whitmore opened eyes during the Magic’s first possession, swatting a shot into the crowd seconds into the game. He had eight points, three rebounds, two steals, two assists and a blocked shot during the first 10 minutes he played and the Vipers led 35-22 after the first quarter. Caught up in the physicality, however, Whitmore received his second technical foul with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter and Osceola leading 123-101 – and Queen still jawing. The Magic led by as many as 24 before Nate Hinton his the Vipers ninth 3-pointer of the night to close within 128-127 with 4:01 remaining.
Whitmore finished the game with 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot in 28 minutes of play. RGV knocked down nine 3-pointers in the game while Osceola converted 20 of them.
At one point early in the second half, the Vipers were on pace to score 80 points during the half. However, the intensity grew on the court and the fouls and physicality increased, which, in turn, slowed the running. But, the Vipers kept pushing at a helter-skelter pace and Osceola was called for delay of game with3:44 remaining in the second quarter and the Vipers leading 62-48, their largest lead.
Those time-control tactics worked for Osceola, which went on a 11-0 run to close to within 62-59 and the Vipers slumped through a stretch at the same time where their set offense couldn’t find the same rhythm as their fast break prowess. Jarrett Culver ended the Magic run with a driving basket and a 64-58 advantage. Still, Osceola took a 70-64 lead into halftime.
RGV returns for a rematch with Osceola at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home.
“It’s Thanksgiving and this is their job this is my job, but there are things more important than basketball – giving thanks and appreciating your family,” Burleson said. “We’ll clean up some things Friday morning. Anytime we lose I don’t think I coached a good game, so we’ll have a better game plan – the ones we had were good, we just didn’t execute them.”