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Full-strength Ignite open new slate with victory over Clippers

With the showcase cup in the rearview mirror, the NBA G League Ignite opened the regular season 1-0 after beating the Ontario Clippers Tuesday, Dec. 27 from The Dollar Loan Center.

That marked the team’s first win at home since Nov. 18.

“It was good to get a win,” head coach Jason Hart said. “We haven’t won here in quite some time so that feels good, just to win. I thought the guys played to win throughout the game and then in overtime, we were able to push on the gas. Normally, when we get teams to overtime or the fourth quarter, we don’t have any energy.”

The Ignite needed overtime but ultimately downed the Clippers, 114-106. Both teams will reconvene Thursday, Dec. 29 from The DLC.

Through the first 16-game sample size, the Ignite went 4-12 not including an 0-2 showing in the G League Winter Showcase.

“It benefitted us a lot,” Hart said. “I feel comfortable playing anybody on my team because I gave everybody an opportunity early. I’m comfortable throwing anybody in at any given moment.”

While playing on the road during that stretch, the Ignite were beaten twice by Ontario by an average of 16.5 points per game. In addition, the Clippers were crowned the champion of the showcase cup.

“It made it more exciting for us,” guard Sidy Cissoko. “We knew we lost two times in a row in Ontario so we had a lot of energy because we wanted to beat this team. They won the showcase and were the best team in the G.”

Guard Cameron Young dove through the lane for the game-winning layup, putting the finishing touches on a 19-point outing on 4-of-9 shooting from the field.

That game-winning bucket came on the heels of the Ignite holding Ontario without a point through the first four-plus minutes of overtime.

“I was very proud,” Hart said. “It’s all about competing and trying to figure out different ways to make it harder on the opposing offense. I thought in the fourth quarter and overtime, guys were able to lock in on their assignments.” The returning Scoot Henderson did a lot of the heavy-lifting late in the fourth quarter and overtime. After missing 11 games including the showcase due to a concussion/nasal fracture, Henderson made his return to the line for the first time since Nov. 18.

“First off, we got the starting point guard back,” Hart said. “They’ve been playing hard but now you’ve got a player in the fourth quarter that is capable of making plays. I think this was the first time we’ve had our starting lineup since the first game against [Metropolitans 92].”

It was a rough go of things for Henderson out of the gate as he missed all four of his first shot attempts. In fact, he was held to just three points in the first half before exploding for 17 in the second half and overtime session.

Down-the-stretch, Henderson scored or assisted on 10 of the last 14 Ignite points on the way to the victory.

“It’s like any team in sports,” Hart said. “If you’re missing [quarterback] Brett Favre with the Green Bay Packers, it’s not going to be the same. If you’re missing [forward] Kawhi Leonard with the Los Angeles Clippers, it’s not going to be the same.”

Fighting for position late in the game, Henderson got two late floaters to fall in the fourth quarter; the first gave the home team a one-point lead while the second tied the game at 106 ahead of overtime.

Cissoko ignited the second floater after stealing the inbounds pass and getting it out quickly to a teammate.

“We’re all happy that Scoot is back,” Cissoko said. “I think Scoot was the piece that we were missing on the team. But now he’s back, he’s back and that’s all I have to say.

“He made a great shot at the end – I had the steal but he made the layup. I’m happy for him.”

Cissoko finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 from the floor with four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

That final push from the Ignite in the fourth quarter helped fend off a disastrous stretch that included a foul on an and-one make, a turnover and a late intentional foul despite several coaches screaming to do so from the bench with seconds left in regulation.

Prior to that, the Clippers had regained the lead for the first time since the first quarter after the Ignite went up by as many as 15 points.

“Really, I just tried my best to lock in on defense,” Henderson said. “I gave up that last layup and just told myself to lock-in. It was really all defense for real.”

Overall, the game featured 16 lead changes, 12 of which came after halftime.


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