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Ignite eliminated from playoff contention after home loss to Skyforce

In their return to The Dollar Loan Center, the NBA G League Ignite just couldn’t close the deal late and ended up losing to the Sioux Falls Skyforce, landing a final blow to the team’s playoff hopes.

Slotted as the 10th seed, the Ignite lost to the No. 6 Skyforce, 120-116, Wednesday, March 15 from The DLC. The team has won back-to-back games four times this year but have still yet to reach a third straight victory.

The loss confirms this year’s developmental team will not make the playoffs.

“We come out to compete every game,” head coach Jason Hart said. “I thought tonight we played to win, we just missed too many free throws. We lost by four, we missed nine free throws – that’s 18 points.”

With the loss, the Ignite are now 11-17 on the year while still sitting in the 10th spot in the Western Conference with four more games left in the regular season. The top six teams from each conference will make the postseason.

Part two of the back-to-back against Sioux Falls will be played Thursday, March 16 from The Dollar Loan Center with tip-off once again scheduled for 7 p.m.

“The problem tonight was free throws,” guard Sidy Cissoko said. “We missed a lot of free throws. [Sioux Falls’ Jamal] Cain got too many buckets [at the end] so we have to justify this one tomorrow because he closed the game.”

A missed opportunity to foul late in the fourth quarter expedited the loss for the Ignite, down two to the Skyforce. The blown chance led to a raceout dunk for the aforementioned Cain.

“We came into this one confident because we won the last two games,” Cissoko said. “We haven’t won three games in a row and we wanted to but we lost. Tomorrow we have a back-to-back so we’re going to work to win that one.”

That late blunder spoiled a sizzling comeback effort by the home team, sparked by a 10-4 run late in regulation to cut it to two points. Prior to that, the Skyforce went on a 7-0 run after the game was knotted at 102 apiece.

The game featured five ties, all of which came after the halftime session. Sioux Falls won the third quarter by 12 points after trailing at halftime by three.

It was a tale of two halves for the Ignite defense after holding the Skyforce to under 40% shooting from the field including a 35% mark from three-point range. In the third quarter alone, Sioux Falls shot 14-of-25 (56%) from the floor with a 50% clip from beyond the arc.

“Just being young,” Hart said. “We’re no different from any other young NBA team. The young guys are going to make mistakes. I’m watching the [Los Angeles] Clippers right now against [the Golden State Warriors] and they’re messing up on defense too – and those guys are 30 and over.

“When you’re 18, you’re going to make mistakes. The thing is to just keep playing when you make them and I thought they came back and competed in the fourth quarter.”

The Ignite went up by 10 points in the first quarter led by seven quick points from veteran guard John Jenkins, who finished with 24 points on 8-for-19 from the field including four made threes.

“He’s been consistent,” Hart said. “He’s been here, he’s been working hard and he’s been one of our leaders on the team. And they respect him because he produces so we’re just happy to have him. Without him, we probably wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are.”

Cissoko shared the team-high in points with Jenkins, pouring in 24 points on 50% shooting to go along with five rebounds and three assists.

Forward Leonard Miller recorded his 16th double-double of the season and his 12th in the last 13 games with 11 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out late in regulation.

Miller was at the heart of the fourth quarter comeback attempt by the home team. He sparked a highlight reel play with a steal followed by a no-look pass to Cissoko for the dunk. Moments later, he connected on his lone made three on the night to tie the game at 102 apiece.

Three other Ignite players scored in double-figures including 16 points from starting point guard London Johnson, 14 points from center Eric Mika and 10 points from guard Pooh Jeter off-the-bench.

Jeter’s effort helped spark a 27-point performance by the Ignite bench.

“Some teams in the G have like eight players,” Cissoko said. “We’ve got a good team so everyone can play [...] We’re waiting for injured players to get back, we’ve got a decent team.”

Projected No. 2 overall pick Scoot Henderson (rest) missed his second straight game.


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