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Ignite can’t shake flat start, lose third in five outings at home

Updated: Jan 13

Urgency was the name of the game as the NBA G League Ignite came alive a little bit too late in the team’s latest outing, resulting in the team’s third loss in five games.

Ignite guard Scoot Henderson dribbles during a Thursday, Jan. 12 matchup against the Oklahoma City Blue. Photo Credit: Wilson Anyanwu

Amidst a seven-game homestand, the Ignite lost, 118-109, to the Oklahoma City Blue Thursday, Jan. 12 from The Dollar Loan Center.

“Saturday and Sunday we’ve got to get back to work,” guard Marcus Graves said. “We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to start figuring out how to put some streaks together – we’ve won a few games here and there.”

Prior to the comeback effort, the Ignite trailed by as many as 17 points.

“It takes too much energy,” head coach Jason Hart said about comeback efforts. “Sometimes you can battle back but just because you battle back doesn’t mean you’re going to have the energy to get over the hump.”

Now, the Ignite are 5-4 on the year with two more games remaining on this season-long seven-game homestand.

The team will have three days off before its next game which takes place Monday, Jan. 16 from The DLC against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

“We’ve got to get back in the gym and practice,” Hart said. “This will be good for us, we haven’t had a practice since Dec. 26. The good thing is we’ll be able to get in the gym and correct some things.”

That 17-point deficit against Oklahoma City came in the first quarter after a 17-5 start by the road team on the way to a 40-point first quarter. The Ignite are 4-13 this season when losing the first quarter.

“Quiet teams always lose,” Hart said. “Until we get to the point where we can talk consistently on defense. That’s when you give up 40 points in the first quarter.”

Blue guard Jaden Shackelford exploded for 15 first quarter points including a 3-for-3 start from three-point range. He finished the first half with 28 points and eight made threes.

Ignite guard Mojave King flies through the air for a two-hand dunk against Oklahoma City. Photo Credit: Wilson Anyanwu

“Anytime you see your first three threes go in, you’re feeling it the rest of the night,” Graves said. “I think for us, we’ve got to set the tone on guys that we know are scorers and shooters. We’ve got to set the tone right away.”

Adjustments were made at halftime and Shackelford was held to just eight points in the second half with one made three.

“Well, he was making threes,” Hart said. “I don’t know if [our team] seen that he was making threes so he made seven in the first half and only made one in the second half. He was in the [scouting report] – it shouldn’t take him seven [threes] before we limit him to one in the second half.”

The bench unit controlled matters as best it could when it took over in the first quarter. After getting the ball rolling on offense, the Ignite’s bench was able to cut the once 17-point deficit to six.

To end the first quarter, the Ignite’s bench sparked a 23-12 run. That run grew to 32-14 as it trickled into the second quarter to give the team a brief 43-42 lead.

“The second unit came in and balled today,” Hart said. “When they got their rest and we got back [in the game], we just couldn’t locate the three-point shooters today.”

By the end of the night, the Ignite bench accounted for 59 points led by 17 points and seven rebounds from forward Leonard Miller. It was Miller’s stepback three during that 32-14 run to give the home team the lead.

In fact, four of the team’s six double-digit scorers came from the bench including 13 points apiece from Graves and fellow guard Mojave King. Fellow guard London Johnson added 10 points of his own.

“That’s part of being a team,” Graves said. “You’ve got to pick up your teammate when they’re down. The starters aren’t always going to come out and set the tone, that’s just part of basketball.”

Pieces of the starting unit began to pick things up in the second half as part of the second comeback effort by the Ignite.

Jenkins connected on a fourth quarter three-pointer after the lead had been pushed back to 11. That bucket gave Jenkins his third 20-point scoring night of the year.

Ignite guard John Jenkins (#23) and center Eric Mika (#12) slap hands near halfcourt during the team's 118-109 loss to Oklahoma City. Photo Credit: Wilson Anyanwu

He finished with team-high 25 points on 9-of-18 from the field including six made threes.

“I believe, as starters, we have to play way better in the beginning of the game,” Jenkins said. “I think that’s like two or three games in a row where we’ve just created a huge deficit for our bench to overcome. It’s honestly not fair and it’s on me, as a veteran and the oldest guy on the starting unit, to hold guys accountable.”

Fellow guard Scoot Henderson made things interesting late with a one-hand steal that he took coast-to-coast for the layup finish as part of a 10-2 run. That highlight reel play trimmed the deficit to two points with just under three minutes left in regulation.

Henderson ended the night with 12 points on 5-of-15 from the floor to go along with four assists and three steals.

“I think as a group, our starting unit has to come out with more of a sense of urgency,” Hart said. “I think when you go to the bench, they’re supposed to relieve and continue on the path. Sometimes our bench has to dig us out of a hole.”

Jenkins and Henderson were the only two starters to score in double-figures.

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