FORT WAYNE – The Los Angeles D-Fenders lived up to their billing Tuesday. They ran and ran – except when hoisting 47 shots from 3-point range – and massaged it into a high-scoring game.
But the Mad Ants didn’t back down in a battle between two of the D-League’s three division leaders. They frustrated and capitalized on the poor free-throw shooting of the D-Fenders for a 125-121 victory.
We were definitely up for this game. They are one of the best teams in the league and they’re hot. They just beat Canton by 32 (on Saturday) and were feeling good about themselves. It’s been awhile since we’ve felt this way. It was a playoff atmosphere, said Matt Bouldin, after the Mad Ants won for the 11th time in their last 13 games.
Tony Mitchell led the Mad Ants (28-15) with 26 points, including the hook shot for a 122-118 lead with 50 seconds remaining in front of 2,492 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
James Sutherland answered with a 3-pointer for Los Angeles (25-16), which had been on a five-game winning streak.
A pair of Jamaal Franklin free throws gave Fort Wayne a 124-121 lead with 19 seconds left. But Terrence Williams, who had a Los Angeles-best 21 points, missed both free throws on the next possession to secure the win. Los Angeles was 10 of 19 on free throws. Fort Wayne was 22 of 31.
Los Angeles came in averaging 120.7 points per game, second to league-leading Rio Grande Valley’s 123.6, but the Mad Ants’ sixth-ranked offense (107.4) kept pace.
Fort Wayne’ was helped by Ron Howard’s 22 points and Will Frisby’s 15. Franklin and Bouldin had 13 apiece.
You don’t want to play into Los Angeles’ strengths, necessarily, but we can play fast, too, Bouldin said.
Los Angeles was 21 of 47 (44.7 percent) from 3-point range, after averaging 34 attempts and 37.2-percent shooting from behind the arc. C.J. Williams was 5 of 12 from 3-point range and totaled 19 points Tuesday. Comparatively, the Mad Ants were 7 of 15.
(The D-Fenders) are something else. If they get it going, they’re tough to stop. And they’ll always be in games because they can shoot the 3 like that, Bouldin said.
Los Angeles led by as many as 11 in the first half, but a 13-2 run by the Mad Ants, capped by a Howard jump shot, tied it at 41 with 6:25 remaining.
Really, after the first quarter, and we talked about it in the huddle, OK, now we’ve kind of got the tempo back,’ said Mad Ants coach Conner Henry, who was a Los Angeles assistant the previous two seasons. We realized how they play. It’s difficult to match up initially.
A 17-7 Mad Ants run culminated with a Frisby one-hander for a 79-69 lead with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter. As the teams rushed to the other end, Los Angeles’ Shawne Williams got tangled up with Sadiel Rojas, inciting some shoving. Shawne Williams, the reigning D-League Performer of the Week, got two technical fouls.
He had 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds when he was ejected.