The NBA G League Ignite dropped their first showing on day two of the AT&T Winter Showcase after falling behind by double-digits late in the fourth quarter.
Following an elam ending finish with a target score of 96, the Ignite were beaten, 96-88, by the Motor City Cruise Tuesday, Dec. 20 from the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
“We competed,” head coach Jason Hart said. “At the end of the day, we competed and our young guys [like guard London Johnson] were able to put on a great performance in front of the NBA people. This is their first time getting a chance to see him.”
Prior to the start of the showcase, the Ignite beat the Santa Cruz Warriors to snap an eight-game losing streak and send the team into this exhibition week riding high.
“You’d be surprised, even though we’ve been losing games, the team morale is never low,” Hart said. “We’re keeping these young dudes’ spirits high and their ultimate goal is to get drafted.”
This year’s developmental group will get one more opportunity to impress the scouts and that will be Thursday, Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. when the team battles the Greensboro Swarm.
It’s been no secret that Hart has admitted to his intention to rely on the younger guys in high-pressure situations rather than lean on the veterans. Facing an elam ending, Hart opted to go with the lineup of guards London Johnson and John Jenkins, forwards Sidy Cissoko and Leonard Miller along with center Efe Abogidi.
Jenkins is 31 years old while the other four players had an average age of 19 years old.
“It was the refs, we were just fouling way too much,” Hart said. “I consider a foul a mistake. So we were just fouling and putting them at the free throw line and it’s hard to combat that when we’re not getting the same fouls.”
That group saw the Cruise use a 12-0 run to take an 11-point lead, their largest of the game, coming within two points of the target score.
Motor City’s fourth quarter run came on the backend of a trio of +8 runs earlier in the game. To close the first quarter, the Cruise used an 8-0 run to take a 19-17 lead into the second 12 minutes.
In the second quarter, Motor City duplicated its performance with another 8-0 after the Ignite had tied the game at 25 apiece. In addition, the team went on a 10-2 run to open the third quarter.
Guard Cameron Young pointed to the team’s defensive emphasis coming into the game and was pleased with how the team responded.
“We came to play,” he said. “Nobody cowered. We knew they were going to attack us one-on-one if their offense broke down. We already kind of talked about that during film. Guys like London and [forward Leonard Miller] stepped up and guarded their man one-on-one.”
The Ignite countered the latter two runs by the Cruise with a couple of spurts of their own with the first tying the game 45-45 heading into halftime on the heels of a 9-3 run. Moreover, the team went on a 14-2 run in the third quarter to once again retake the lead.
“I was happy to see that they competed,” Hart said. “They competed every step of the way and never shied away from contact or the competitive nature. We just didn’t make enough shots and we turned the ball over 17 times.”
Young led the team in scoring with 18 points off-the-bench, a strong showing at the showcase for someone who once scored 55 points in a Division-I college basketball game with Quinnipiac.
“[Hart] definitely knows I’m a scorer,” Young said. “I look to find my spots as well especially when we’re kind of slow offensively just to try and get us going and be that spark off-the-bench.”
Young scored his 18 points on 5-of-12 from the field to go along with five rebounds. Cissoko shot 3-of-5 from the floor with two made threes for 14 points.
The aforementioned Johnson poured in 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting with three rebounds and two assists from the lead guard spot. Jenkins also tallied 13 points and three made treys in just over 27 minutes of action.
Presumed No. 2 overall pick Scoot Henderson (concussion/nasal fracture) was in attendance with the team but missed his 10th straight game.
“Scoot’s been practicing,” Hart said. “It’s just about him being able to practice daily without having those side effects because he did have a severe concussion with a broken nose.
“I’m looking forward to Scoot coming back for our first game after our Christmas break.”