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  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Georges Niang, left, tries to block Maine's Jalen Jones from getting to the basketball Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' Georges Niang shoots the ball Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Georges Niang dribbles the ball down the court Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Tyler Hansbrough, right, and Maine's Abdel Nader fight to get the ball Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' Jordan Loyd shoots the ball as Red Claws players try to defend Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Maine’s Abdel Nader, left, tries to push the ball away from Mad Ants’ Jordan Loyd on Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Maine's Demetrius Jackson, left, tries to pass the ball to a teammate while being defended by the Mad Ants' Trey McKinney-Jones on Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants’ Tyler Hansbrough, left, defends Maine’s Guerschon Yabusele on Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017 11:20 pm

Analyzing Mad Ants' Game 1 loss

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Mad Ants lost 110-106 in overtime tonight and now what ensues is the long wait. The Mad Ants and Maine Red Claws don’t play again until Monday in Portland, Maine.

I loathe best-of-3 series for many reasons. D-League teams play 50-game regular seasons and to have such a short playoff simply makes upsets more likely and makes it feel like the NBA/D-League doesn’t care about really deciding the best team; they’re just doing it because they have to appease the fans because it doesn’t really fit into their model of development.

I guess some would view a best-of-3 as exciting, but I frankly think a team should be able to have one off night and not have it kill their season. They should also get more than one weekday home date to, you know, make some money.

And, if the Mad Ants had won tonight, and gone on to win the series, it would have been 10 to 13 days between home games.

The worst part of the best-of-3 is playing out now. Because the Red Claws stole Game 1, it is now totally in the driver’s seat because it get two games (if necessary) to close it out.

Anyway, rant over.

So what went wrong tonight? The Mad Ants didn’t stick to their game plan and didn’t utilize their biggest strength – the inside game – which worked so well in helping them get a nine-point third-quarter lead.

Tyler Hansbrough had 29 points on 12-of-22 shooting and 20 rebounds. The Red Claws couldn’t handle him. So why on earth did they start hoisting shots from long range?

The Mad Ants show 48.2 percent from the field, including an abysmal 4 of 25 from 3-point range, and Maine shot 48.2 percent but won despite getting out-rebounded 56-46.

“Our ability to close out toward the end hurt us,” Hansbrough said. “Maybe we went for the home run plays too much. We have to look at the film because everything’s really raw right now, in terms of just taking the game and not really having studied it. Like (coach Steve Gansey) said, we’ve got to get out and attack the basket more and get ways to get easy shots, especially if our outside shots aren’t going in.”

The Mad Ants had a 98-93 on a George Niang finger-roll with 4:34 remaining in front of 2,833 fans that included Mayor Tom Henry and Peter Dinwiddie, the Indiana Pacers’ vice-president of basketball operations, but they missed their last 11 shots of regulation time.

Maine’s Arthur Edwards tied it at 99 with 26 seconds left and the blocked a potential game-winning Niang shot with 3.7 seconds left.

Despite beginning overtime with a thrilling Niang-to-Hansbrough alley-oop, the Mad Ants fell behind 103-101 on a Jordan Mickey jump shot and continued to miss from long range and get into foul trouble.

The refereeing didn’t help tonight, as the crew just looked befuddled on too many big plays through the paint. They also were letting Maine’s coach get away with berating them and using some pretty foul language, which surprised me considering they could have just shut him up with a technical foul.

Maine’s Demetrius Jackson, the former Notre Dame player who is a rookie under contract to the Boston Celtics, had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists, including nine points in the fourth quarter, five points in overtime and 10-of-12 free-throw shooting overall. The Mad Ants didn’t have an answer to him driving to the paint late in the game.

“It’s my first time ever experiencing anything like this, in terms of playing the same team back-to-back, over and over (in a playoff series). It’s my first time and I’m learning from some of the guys who have been through it, some of the veterans and the coaches, and at the end of the day it’s just going to come down to who plays harder,” Jackson said.

Video of Hansbrough’s game are above.

Here’s the good news, though: The Mad Ants have preached all season long about the need to win two of every three games. That’s because they wanted to be prepared for a situation just like this.

The Mad Ants had a five-game losing streak in February but beyond that, they lost back-to-back games only twice.