Stampede off to 2-0 start with win over Jam

clangrill@idahostatesman.comNovember 24, 2013 

Two games does not a season make.

But after a pair of NBA Development League contests some themes have started to develop around the Idaho Stampede.

First and foremost, Idaho has a winning streak. The Stampede defeated the Bakersfield Jam 107-97 on Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena to improve to 2-0.

Last season, Idaho began 1-12 and didn’t put together back-to-back wins until Jan. 3.

“To be able to close out these two wins says a lot,” second-year coach Michael Peck said. “We have a young team. Not one starter had D-League experience before this weekend.”

Here’s a look at some of the other story lines to follow as the season progresses:

GUARD PLAY: Pierre Jackson, the Stampede’s top pick in this year’s draft, and Dee Bost, who attended the Portland Trail Blazers’ training camp, are the engine that will motor this year’s team.

And that engine can go from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat.

“Me and Dee are both comfortable on and off the ball,” said Jackson, who finished with a game-high 32 points after scoring 29 in the opener.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Bost, who had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists. “It’s going to be tough for people to cover both of us. We’re two quick guards, and he’s a great scorer. … It’s just been fun out there.”

BIGS COMING UP BIG: Last season, there were times when the Stampede simply weren’t able to compete against other teams’ bigger players inside.

As long as Richard Howell and Dallas Lauderdale are in uniform, that shouldn’t be a problem this season.

The two have displayed physicality and athleticism.

“Me and Dallas, we want to play physical. We feel like that benefits us,” Howell said.

Howell notched his second double-double Saturday, with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Lauderdale went 6-for-6 from the field and finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots. After going 5-for-5 on Friday night, Lauderdale has yet to miss a shot.

An almost comical side note to Saturday’s game: Bakersfield trailed by double digits late, and it resorted to a Hack-a-Dallas strategy, fouling Lauderdale even as he stood alone without the ball.

It might be the last time teams try that strategy, however. Lauderdale finished 8-of-10 from the free throw line.

“We had faith in Dallas, and he knocked them down,” Jackson said.

HERE’S TO THEIR HEALTH: Injuries can derail any team, in any sport.

Two games into the season, it’s already an issue for the Stampede.

Forward Kellen Thornton missed the first two games after leaving Thursday’s practice with dizziness. Idaho will wait until Portland, its NBA affiliate, signs off on Thornton’s health before playing him.

Guard Reggie Hamilton sat out Saturday’s game with knee pain that could limit him early in the season.

Then the team lost forward EJ Singler in the second period after he suffered an injury above his left eye that took 10 stitches to close.

Singler should be able to play in Idaho’s next game, but Peck said injuries are already a concern.

“This usually doesn’t happen until February or March,” Peck said, adding that he has at least one player on his radar who might be added, if necessary.

COMPETITIVE FIRE: Maybe the most impressive aspect of the Stampede’s first two wins was the way they dealt with adversity. Idaho trailed by 15 points in Friday’s opener, but clawed back to take control of the game.

On Saturday night, Idaho battled through injury woes and foul trouble and still came away with a win.

“It was tough, but we’ve all been in this kind of situation before,” Jackson said. “We played together, and that’s all you want from your team, to play together and pull the win out.

“We know our team identity. We’ve got a really scrappy team.”

Scrappy enough to pull out a win with six eligible players at the end of the game after Howell fouled out.

“That’s something that’s going to make us tougher down the road,” Howell said.

NOTE: Idaho’s next game is Saturday against the Reno Bighorns. The game time has been changed to 3 p.m., and fans wearing blue and orange can receive discounted tickets.

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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