Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' Stephan Hicks tries to get around Long Island's Mitchell Creek during the second quarter Friday.
Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants' Stephan Hicks pushes past Nets' Dzanan Musa to get to the hoop during the second quarter at the Coliseum on Friday.
Saturday, December 08, 2018 1:00 am
Long Island 117 Mad Ants 111
Late mistakes send Ants to another loss
Hicks puts up 29, refuses to use roster fluctuation as excuse
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
The Mad Ants' 117-111 loss to the Long Island Nets on Friday had its positives, such as Stephan Hicks' career-best 29 points, Davon Reed's 26 points and that Fort Wayne hung with one of the G League's top teams until late.
But Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey couldn't shake the frustration of the multitude of mistakes that resulted in a fifth loss in the last seven games. As Alize Johnson and Edmond Sumner remain with the Indiana Pacers, the Mad Ants (5-6) can't afford those missteps.
“(The Nets) are a very good basketball team. We're a good basketball team,” Gansey said. “But down the stretch, we have to get every defensive rebound and not turn the ball over. We've got to execute coming out of the timeouts and know where to be, exactly, and need to be in our spots and run our plays. ... When you play good teams, the margin of mistakes has to be very slim.”
Long Island (9-4) came in as the worst 3-point-shooting team in the G League at 27.1 percent, then proceeded to make 14 of 34 (41 percent) from beyond the arc. Dzanan Musa, who had a Nets-best 25 points, was 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Jordan McLaughlin, who had 24 points, was 4 of 9.
“We didn't get enough stops,” Hicks said. “We were right there in the game. I thought we played pretty good throughout the game. We just didn't come up with enough of the small stuff like the defensive boards to get us over the hump.”
A crowd of 1,781 was on hand for Star Wars Night, Tra-Deon Hollins was back after missing two games with a knee injury, and Omari Johnson had 15 points for Fort Wayne. Also, Ike Anigbogu had 10 points and nine rebounds, and Gansey continued to give more playing time to rookies Demetrius Denzel-Dyson, Rob Gray and Jared Sam.
The Nets had the advantage in rebounding (47-38) and assists (20-13). That the Mad Ants have used seven different starting lineups this season, Hicks said, isn't an excuse that should be used.
“We all know each other and we've all been practicing together for a while,” Hicks said. “We've just got to dig deep and try to get these wins.”
Before the game, the Mad Ants traded the rights of former star guard Walt Lemon Jr. to the Windy City Bulls for a first-round pick in next year's G League draft and the rights to Alex Hamilton, general manager Brian Levy confirmed. That pick could be especially valuable since the Bulls are off to a 5-10 start and next season will be the first in which there are select contracts for players straight out of high school.
The Mad Ants had interest in bringing back Lemon after he was released Nov. 30 from his two-way contract with the Boston Celtics, but they didn't feel they would have the available playing time when Sumner returns from the Pacers.
“We really value Walt and would have loved to have him back,” Levy said. “But we want to be fair to everybody and think this is the best situation for all. Walt is from Chicago and will get to play a lot there.”
Hamilton is averaging 13.5 points, 4 rebounds and 3.6 assists in Lithuania.
“(Gansey) and I would have loved to have brought Walt back but didn't see a way to do it without compromising his goals and we want to do right by him and by Edmond,” Levy said.