C.J. Fair scored 32 points – the most of his two-season D-League career – and led the Mad Ants to a 111-102 victory over the Delaware 87ers on Tuesday.
With the Mad Ants having lost nine of their last 11 games, they needed a strong performance and got one, even though they squandered a 20-point second-quarter lead to trail by two in the fourth quarter at Memorial Coliseum.
"It definitely feels good, especially because we’re going home for the (All-Star) break. It feels good to go out on a positive note," said Fair, who made 13 of 16 shots, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range, and had seven rebounds.
In his second season out of Syracuse, Fair had eclipsed 30 points only once before – in a playoff victory over Maine last season – and the Mad Ants are off until Feb. 16 at the Coliseum against Grand Rapids.
Rakeem Christmas, a rookie out of Syracuse, will be Fort Wayne’s lone representative in the D-League All-Star Game on Saturday in Toronto, while Walter Lemon Jr. will compete in the dunk contest.
"C.J. is a big-time shot maker for us," said coach Steve Gansey, whose Mad Ants had lost four of their previous five games.
"(David) Laury was on him, which I thought was a mismatch, but it wasn’t like he was taking him off the bounce. It was all face-up stuff and C.J. is really good at that. He was 13 for 16, and that’s a pretty dang good percentage right there."
Lemon had 20 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Shayne Whittington had 15 points and nine rebounds in his first game since returning from the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.
Anthony Harris added 14 points, five assists and four rebounds in his first start of the season.
"I’ve always put in Anthony when we’re down, and we need a boost. He always brings it. He always brings energy," Gansey said. "He had seven assists in the last game. He catches it. He attacks the middle.
"I wanted to give him an opportunity where he’s not coming in while we’re down. I wanted to throw him in the starting lineup, and I thought he did a good job."
After two 3-pointers from Fair and one from Terran Petteway, the Mad Ants (14-16) took a 44-24 lead with 6:16 remaining in the second quarter.
But a familiar foil, the Mad Ants’ lack of consistency, reared its head, and Sean Kilpatrick’s jump shot with 7:40 left in the third quarter cut the lead to 59-52.
After Ty Greene hit a 3-pointer, then drew a foul and made a pair of free throws, the 87ers (17-16) were up 90-88.
But it didn’t last long as a Lemon 3-pointer with 4:50 left put the Mad Ants up 97-91, and Delaware never challenged again.
Kilpatrick had 20 points on 9-of-19 shooting and Greene was 5 of 12 for 19 points in front of 1,745 fans.
"We moved the ball a lot more. That was our main focus coming into the game, just moving the ball side to side," Fair said. "That was so we could attack gaps and create easy (shots)."
Christmas had 10 points and the Mad Ants were superior from 3-point range – 11 of 29 to 3 of 17 – to make up for the 87ers’ 54-40 lead in points in the paint.