The Mad Ants’ 98-94 victory Friday over the Canton Charge was cemented by Terran Petteway’s 3-pointer from the corner for a four-point lead with 53 seconds left at Memorial Coliseum.
While it capped the best night of Petteway’s rookie season so far – he had 36 points on 13-of-21 shooting – it was indicative of something larger: The Mad Ants’ desire to set up big 3-point shots.
"Those 3s are very big for us, especially the corner 3-pointers," said Petteway, who was the only Fort Wayne player with a successful shot from beyond the arc, making 4 of 7.
Coach Steve Gansey wants the Mad Ants attempting at least 25 shots from 3-point range per game, so in that sense Friday was a disappointment – they were 4 of 18 – but they have shown aptitude from long range this season.
"We want to attack the basket," Gansey said. "That’s one of our goals. We want to speed up the tempo."
The Mad Ants aim to drive toward the basket – they are normally led by rookie Rakeem Christmas, an Indiana Pacers prospect averaging 18.7 points – and then kick the ball out to an open man.
Here’s how Petteway’s key 3-pointer for a 94-90 lead was set up: Xavier Thames was at mid-court and swung a pass to his left to Petteway, who drove toward the basket before flinging a crossing pass to Marcus Simmons, who was just outside the arc before sending a short pass to Petteway, who had just cut across the baseline to get into shooting position.
"We work on that in practice all the time – driving the baseline and kicking to the corners," said Petteway, who is averaging 14.7 points in his first season out of Nebraska. "We like taking open 3s because we like getting up-and-down the court and having an up-tempo pace. The 3s help out a lot."
The Mad Ants have made 68 of 192 from 3-point range this season, led by Petteway’s 19 of 48 shooting, Ramon Harris’ 14 of 27 and Thames’ 9 of 24.
Heading into Saturday, only seven of the D-League’s 19 teams had attempted more 3-pointers than Fort Wayne and only seven had a better percentage of success than Fort Wayne’s 35.4.
As for Fort Wayne’s opponents, they have made 62 of 220 from behind the arc, giving the Mad Ants the top 3-point defense in terms of percentage.
The Mad Ants (6-3), who are coming off victories over Westchester (7-1) and Canton (2-4), play today in Michigan against the Grand Rapids Drive (3-5), and Gansey’s team is sure to keep emphasizing long-range shots, especially from the corners.
"When guys are making the extra pass, corner 3s are the highest-percentage 3-pointers right now," Gansey said, adding that the success stems from solid passing.
"Get a quick swing, swing, swing, get a guy wide open, then I want the guys to shoot it."