The last thing one would expect from the Mad Ants, who could clinch the top seed in the D-League playoffs with a victory Friday, would be for them to have a hiccup against lowly Maine tonight.
For awhile, though, things were in doubt.
Not until the Mad Ants opened the third quarter with a commanding run did they take control and get a 122-108 victory.
It was Fort Wayne's 16th victory in its last 19 games.
On Friday at Memorial Coliseum, the league-leading Mad Ants (33-16) play host to the Los Angeles D-Fenders (31-17).
Against Maine (19-30), the Mad Ants were led by 21 points apiece from Ron Howard and Sadiel Rojas, who had 12 rebounds.
Maine got 30 from Chris Wright.
During halftime of the game, the Mad Ants re-signed 29-year-old guard Anthony Harris, who was an important component of the Mad Ants' first ever run to the playoffs last season, when he averaged 8.9 points and 4.3 assists in 35 games. He began this season with Fort Wayne but was released after eight games and went on to play for Bakersfield and Canton.
Harris took the place of guard Jamaal Franklin, who was recalled by the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, after he averaged 17.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists in his last 13 D-League games. The Mad Ants don't expect Franklin, a rookie, to be back this season.
A Ron Howard jump shot with 2:03 remaining in the first quarter kicked off an 18-8 run and a 36-24 lead for the Mad Ants. The surge was halted by a 3-pointer from Maine's Frank Gaines, who starred at IPFW last season and came into the night averaging 22 points per game.
Another Gaines 3-pointer, with 6:53 remaining in the second quarter, tied it at 39. He finished with 23 points.
A Tyshawn Taylor fast-break dunk put the Red Claws up 55-52, but the joy was short lived; Mitchell immediately answered with a thunderous dunk and Ramon Harris added a 3-pointer for a 57-55 lead with 2:08 left.
A Harris 3-pointer put the Mad Ants up 64-59 with 10 seconds left in the first half, during which the teams combined for 13 shots from beyond the arc. Maine was 7 of 16 and Fort Wayne was 6 of 14.
The Mad Ants opened the third quarter with a 14-4 run, paced by six points from Howard and five from Matt Bouldin, for a 78-66 lead. The game was never again in doubt.