Joey Meyer exhausted his timeouts if not himself in the waning moments of Thursday nights D-League game, hoping to devise a way to both coach and coax the Mad Ants past Sioux Falls.
But with every offensive plan, Sioux Falls had an answer, and with each defensive stance, the Skyforce seemingly hit a basket when most needed in its 100-96 victory at Memorial Coliseum.
With Sioux Falls owning a 95-93 lead, Meyer called a timeout with 1:35 left. Thats when Ron Howard, playing his first game back after being released from the Milwaukee Bucks training camp, went in for a layup that hung on the front of the rim and fell off. And when Marvin Phillips tried to put back the rebound, his shot was blocked.
Sioux Falls came back to the other end with a looping 5-footer from Anthony Mason Jr. to put the Skyforce up 97-93. When Howard made one free throw, Sioux Falls got a driving layup from Mason to make it a 99-94 game, forcing Meyer to call his final timeout with 31.3 seconds left.
We attacked the rim twice in the last minute, and they blocked two shots, Meyer said. But thats what I wanted them to do, was attack the rim, and (Sioux Falls 6-foot-9 Charles) Garcia made two nice blocks.
Help is on the way for the Ants, who have lost three of their last four home games.
Point guard Walker Russell Jr. was released from the Detroit Pistons camp and is scheduled to play at 7:30 tonight when the Ants play host to Austin. Then earlier Thursday night, team president Jeff Potter said that forward Darnell Lazare was released from the Indiana Pacers camp, and 6-11 center Chris Hunter was returning from the New York Knicks camp.
With three players coming back and returning to the roster, that means three will have to be leaving.
Its hard, Meyer said. These kids have done what Ive asked them to do, but anytime you let guys go, its hard. Im sure theyre going back to their apartment going, Oh, my God. Weve got these guys coming back, so they know theyre on the bubble. Thats a hard thing to do.
Coming out of halftime, the Ants took a 58-49 lead.
But Casey Mitchell hit three straight three-point shots to go with two buckets from Garcia, and the Skyforce took a 62-60 lead.
And Meyer called a timeout.
He hit some tough shots, and thats what he does, said Howard, who scored 28 points in his return. That was one of our focuses, to try to not allow him to get good looks. Some of them werent good looks, but good shooters are going to make tough shots.
Meyer couldnt argue.
They were pretty good offensively, he said. Ive got to give them some credit. I keep moaning about us, but give them some credit. They did some nice things.