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Ignite can’t close versus Swarm, leave Showcase winless

A dry spell down-the-stretch in game two of the AT&T Winter Showcase resulted in the second straight loss in the spectacle for the NBA G League Ignite.

The Ignite were outscored by double-digits in the fourth quarter en route to a 109-90 loss to the Greensboro Swarm Thursday, Dec. 22 from the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

“Just the presence of all the scouts that were here,” center Efe Abogidi said about his takeaways from this year’s showcase. “You have to show up and do your best for the executives watching. That’s the difference playing with a lot of fans – there’s no crowd here so you have to bring your own energy.”

Along with the rest of the G League, the Ignite will take a break through the Christmas Holiday and will resume action Tuesday, Dec. 27 when it takes on the Ontario Clippers. That will mark the first of back-to-back games against the Clippers.

Additionally, Ontario is one of the two participants in the Showcase Cup Finals.

“I just think [the Ignite] have to be ready to play,” head coach Jason Hart said. “It’s a new season, records are 0-0 and that gives us an opportunity to start fresh.”

Those matchups against the Clippers will be played from The Dollar Loan Center with the first scheduled for 7 p.m. Presumed No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Scoot Henderson, is expected to make his return to the floor after missing the team’s last nine regular season games as well as both during the showcase.

After one quarter of play against the Swarm, the Ignite held a four-point advantage despite a near 50% shooting mark from the field for Greensboro.

“[Forward] Bryce McGowens is a high-level draft pick,” Hart said. “[Center] Mark Williams is a lottery pick. Their two were just better than ours tonight and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

By the end of the contest, the Ignite’s 50% from the floor was offset by a 50%-clip from the Swarm.

The aforementioned Williams led all scorers with 29 points on 13-of-17 from the floor to go along with 17 rebounds.

“As a team, we just have to be on the weak side and help,” Abogidi said. “That was the biggest downside to today. I was looking at his numbers and he had 29 and 17, the guy on the help side has to be there. But I take responsibility for that.”

Williams was aided by two fellow 20-point scorers, the first being the aforementioned McGowens. The former Nebraska Cornhusker poured in 28 points on 12-of-21 shooting with two made three-pointers.

Guard Jalen Crutcher rounded out the field with 22 points on 9-of-11 from the field.

The top-heavy scoring for the Swarm aided the team in building a double-digit lead late in the third quarter eventually pushing it to 19 in the fourth quarter. Moreover, the team closed the game on an 11-0 run outscoring the Ignite 25-11 in the frame.

While they did suffer a double-digit defeat, the once red-hot Ignite offense just couldn’t keep pace in the second half. At halftime, the team had posted 58 points before being held to just 32 in the second 24 minutes.

“We did good in the first half,” Hart said. “In the second half, we couldn’t keep that up and then our defense started to slip. Obviously, when you have young guys out there that’s the hardest part, keeping them going for 48 minutes.”

Unselfish team play led the Ignite to so many successful looks at the basket. The team picked up nine assists on 12 made field goals in the first quarter. By the end of the first half, the team had accumulated 16 assists on 23 made field goals.

The chemistry on-the-court carried over the bench as well with several animated moments from the sitting group. In fact, late in the first quarter the team’s bench was assessed a technical foul for stepping on the court.

“We are great teammates on and off-the-floor,” Abogidi said. “We pull for each other, we just have to figure out how to stay longer in the game. I think we’ve gelled to the point where we pull for each other. We just have to translate that more to games and that’s going to show more once we start winning games.”

Guard John Jenkins led all Ignite scorers with 15 points on 50% shooting with three made threes. He was followed in the scoring department by forward Leonard Miller (12 points), Abogidi (11 points) and guards Marcus Graves and Mojave King (10 points).

That extra pass that carried the team early in the game came to do the opposite late as the Ignite went on to finish the game with 20 turnovers as a team.

“We just have to stick with our principles,” Abogidi said. “Things happen in a basketball game but the energy on our part – we just winded down in the fourth quarter and those turnovers were very crucial to the game.”

After 16 assists in the first half, the Ignite were limited to just four in the second.


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