Monday, December 18, 2017 9:40 pm
Leaf-led Mad Ants snap skid
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
When the Mad Ants had played the Greensboro Swarm, in the second game of the season, a victory propelled them to an eight-game winning streak that put them atop the G League.
The Mad Ants are hoping tonight’s victory over the Swarm – 127-124 at Memorial Coliseum – sparks them to similar rewards.
They certainly could use it.
The Mad Ants snapped a four-game losing streak, their worst run since losing five in a row in February, and put them into a tie with the Wisconsin Herd for first place in the Central Division.
Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan attended his first Mad Ants game of the season and sat courtside, watching Indiana’s two draft picks of this year, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu, perform amid an announced crowd of 1,666.
“I want to see guys play the right way,” said Buchanan, who last summer replaced Kevin Pritchard as general manager after Pritchard moved up to team president. “I’m not as concerned about stats. I want to see them playing the right way, playing together, playing unselfishly. Those are the most important things for us.”
Leaf totaled 33 points on 14 of 21 shooting, with nine rebounds. Walt Lemon Jr. had 26 points and 11 assists for the Mad Ants (11-6).
Greensboro (6-11), which had won three of its previous four games, was paced by Archie Goodwin’s 29 points.
Leaf, who had 20 points and 9 rebounds in his G League debut, a 103-101 loss Saturday to Grand Rapids, opened the game with a 3-pointer. He made it 5-0 after Anigbogu punched a rebound to him in the lane and scored seven of Fort Wayne’s first nine points en route to a 9-3 lead.
Four straight Leaf baskets, including a scoop off the glass and a thunderous dunk, gave him 15 points on 7 of 10 shooting and the Mad Ants a 21-10 lead.
“I think our guys are playing well tonight,” Buchanan said. “They’re playing inspired basketball and making some good hustle plays out there that you like to see.”
A Lemon drive along the baseline allowed him to pass it to Anigbogu, who was underneath the basket, for a hook shot and a 37-23 lead with 8:45 left in the second quarter.
The Mad Ants took a 53-36 lead with 4:08 left in the quarter, after Uthoff got a rebound that had rolled all the way to center court, then skirted his way through the defense for a shot off the glass.
A 3-pointer from the corner by Greensboro’s Jalen Jones tied it at 64 with 8:07 remaining in the third quarter. Fort Wayne’s Stephan Hicks responded with a 3 after a timeout but Greensboro’s Goodwin wasted no time in hitting a 3 of his own to tie it at 67. Uthoff’s fall-away shot on the baseline, from 15 feet, established an 81-71 Fort Wayne lead with 4:01 left in the third quarter.
A putback by Fort Wayne’s DeQuan Jones made the lead a commanding 112-99 with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer by Greensboro’s Terry Henderson trimmed Fort Wayne’s lead to 112-107.
The Swarm’s T.J. Williams stole the ball from DeQuan Jones, who didn’t have any help from a guard under his own basket, and that led to a Williams layup that cut Fort Wayne’s lead to 116-115. But Leaf answered with a 3 pointer for a 119-115 lead with 1:20 left.
Notes: Former Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings attended the game. She works for the Pacers as director of player programs and franchise development, a role that includes assisting the Mad Ants’ players with their on- and off-court development. … Fort Wayne’s Tra-Deon Hollins, a rookie, totaled 11 minutes and had one point with two assists. In the previous eight games, he didn’t play at all four times and never played more than seven minutes. He hasn’t played more than 14 minutes since the third game of the season. … C.J. Fair scored in double figures for only the second time in the last eight games, after doing so in each of the first nine. He had 11 points.