FORT WAYNE – Just before he laced up his shoes for Wednesday mornings practice, point guard Anthony Harris was adamant that, heck yes, he was keeping close watch on the D-League standings. With the Mad Ants a game out of a possible playoff spot and three critical home games staring them down, why wouldnt he?
You need to pay attention to it, Harris said. If you dont pay attention to it, how do you know where youre at? How do you know where everybody else is at if you dont pay attention? Youre just out there playing.
That works for some people, but I think the end result, thats not like having a goal. If youre not setting a goal or setting a standard, how do you know where youre going?
Eight games remain in the Ants D-League regular season, and three of them will be in rapid succession, beginning today when the Ants (21-21) face Maine (23-22) at 7 p.m. Austin (23-18) then arrives for a 7:30 p.m. game Friday, and Rio Grande Valley (26-15) will be at the Coliseum for a 5 p.m. start Sunday.
Four teams – Maine, Sioux Falls (22-20), Erie (23-21) and the Ants – are jostling for the last two available playoff berths. As far as Ants first-year coach Duane Ticknor is concerned, the playoff push has begun.
We felt like we started our playoffs last week, Ticknor said. Weve kind of divided it into little series – two out of three, two out of three, two out of three. Thats kind of our goal. Obviously wed like to win all three, but we think if we could win all the playoff series, well be where we want to be at the end.
Although the Ants have won five of their last seven, their most recent outing was a 107-80 loss at Springfield, whose 17-25 record is the fourth-worst in the league.
I think Sunday was a good lesson for us when we came out and didnt play well, proving that anyone can beat anybody, especially if were not ready to play, Ticknor said. It was one of those days where we couldnt catch the ball, we couldnt pass the ball, we couldnt shoot the ball. Every loose ball went to them. It was just one of those days. It kind of proved a point to them that you just cant take a day off at this stage of the season.
Forward Brandon Wallace said the loss – a game in which the team shot 33 percent – could be a springboard into the next few games.
For the most part, when you play bad, you want to come out and play well the next game, Wallace said. If anything, its an eye-opener. But with this group of guys, I dont worry too much about that.