Mad Ants coach Tom Hankins had plenty of things concerning him when the game began at 11 a.m. today: His team's physical and mental fatigue for a second game in 20 hours; losing arguably his best player, Oshae Brissett, to a minor leg injury minutes before tip-off; and knowledge that the Mad Ants can hardly afford to lose if they want to qualify for the postseason.
But this is the G League, where leads are never safe and unpredictability is the norm, a lesson the Mad Ants certainly have learned through several missed opportunities in the Orlando, Florida, bubble.
This time, Fort Wayne was on the winning side. Devin Robinson stole an inbound pass at mid-court with 18 seconds left to set up a Naz Mitrou-Long pass to Daxter Miles Jr. in the corner. Miles’ 3-point attempt was blocked, but he reacquired the ball and his arcing baseline shot bounced in for the final points of a 109-108 victory over the Agua Caliente Clippers at AdventHealth Arena.
“It was a great win, man, just great,” Mitrou-Long said. “Just given that it was a complete team effort and having our hottest player out in Oshae, and them having an almost whole new roster from when we scrimmaged them (Feb. 6), to get that type of win, when we were down (12) points with (4:12) left, it’s a great feeling.”
Mitrou-Long had 19 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds, as the Mad Ants (5-6) won for the fourth time in five games. Mitrou-Long, who came in averaging 13.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4 rebounds, made 7 of 12 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, against the Clippers (3-7).
“He’s always talking, which gives energy to everybody,” Hankins said. “Sometimes his shot isn’t falling, but today he really made some big shots. What he’s really trying to improve on is defense, especially with pick-and-roll. That’s been a knock on him, just guarding guards on pick-and-roll, and he really did (improve). Especially in the fourth quarter, he’s really starting to get (adept) and put a little more pressure on the guy he’s guarding and I think that helped a lot.”
The Mad Ants' Brian Bowen II had 17 points and 16 rebounds, playing 40 minutes -- 4 more than anyone else in the game and 11 more than any teammate. Bowen converted 7 of 16 shots, including 3 of 7 from beyond the arc.
“Literally, across the line, it was a complete team effort,” Mitrou-Long said. “And those are the best ones to have, when you’re just as good as you think you are.”
The Mad Ants continue to praise center Amida Brimah for his contributions at both ends of the court. The team has won 4 of 6 since Brimah arrived, after missing 17 months with a torn ACL and then visa issues. Brimah had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3 shot blocks today, when Josh Gray had 14 points and Cassius Stanley 13 for the Mad Ants.
With four games remaining, the Mad Ants are 1 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Agua Caliente’s Amir Coffey had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. James Palmer Jr. totaled 17 points.