An improbable second half comeback saw the NBA G League Ignite completely erase a 17-point deficit in the final 18-plus minutes of regulation to steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
By the slimmest of margins, the Ignite beat the Mexico City Capitanes, 123-122, Tuesday, Jan. 10 from The Dollar Loan Center. That marked the sixth game in 10 days for this year’s developmental team.
“That’s what we’re trying to teach these guys, ‘Go do your job,’” head coach Jason Hart said. “I thought they competed in the second half in just trying to figure this thing out. We’re 5-3, that’s a good record.”
Now, the Ignite are 5-3 on the year and 3-3 in home games. Prior to the showcase the team went 2-6 in contests from The DLC.
One day of rest for the team ahead of a Thursday, Jan. 12 home matchup against the Oklahoma City Blue. That will be the fifth game of a seven-game homestand.
“We’ve got to make sure we rest our young guys so they can have longevity in this,” Hart said. “I want to win every game but the reason why we have a deep roster is to give other guys opportunities.”
Guard Scoot Henderson and forward Leonard Miller closed the show down-the-stretch as the Ignite put the finishing touches on a 64-40 second half for the home team.
Five of the game’s eight ties came in the fourth quarter. Mexico City forward Gary Clark missed a game-tying free throw as part of a three-shot foul with 1.2 seconds left in regulation.
Miller finished a layup in the lane with about five and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 105. Coming out of the break, Henderson could hit a mid range jumper to put the team ahead for the first time since 2-0 to open the game.
“I feel like we just have great teammates that tell us to ‘Keep pushing,’” Henderson said. “We don’t ever try to dwell on the last play. That’s something that I’m still working on but I feel like I’m always going to stay confident, same with Leonard.”
With less than a minute and a half left in regulation, Miller splashed a three from the top of the key to break a 113-113- tie. That bucket gave him a career-high 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting off-the-bench to go along with eight rebounds and two steals.
Twenty of his 26 points came in the second half.
“I just go out there and give it my all,” Miller said. “Even though, ‘Things weren’t going my way,’ in the first half I didn’t do anything different as far as my mindset and my approach to the game.”
Henderson tied a season-high with 27 points on 9-of-16 from the field including an and-one basket with 42.6 seconds left to put the Ignite up four.
“I feel like tonight I showed how to stay poised,” Henderson said. “I’m still working on being a leader through adversity. Tonight, I just showed I’m consistent in what I do.”
The Ignite were down by as many as 17 points with less than seven minutes to go in the third quarter. It was a 22-8 run to trim the deficit to three.
On the way to the win, the Ignite only led for 1:39 of the 48-minute ball game.
“It was one of those Bobby Knight-type speeches at halftime,” Hart said. “It was just about pride. They’re grown men so you don’t want to do that.”
Guard Sidy Cissoko did what he could to help the comeback efforts, aiding the team in its 36-point second quarter. He completed an acrobatic layup on his way down to the hardwood plus the foul as part of a 5-0 run. Moments later, he flushed a dunk on a fast break to push the run to 7-2.
Cissoko also had highlights on the other end including a block with the team down two.
“He’s playing defense,” Hart said. “And that’s what he’s going to have to do if he wants to get drafted. He’s not going to get a cookie for playing defense. When you’re young and you’re trying to get to the NBA, you’ve got to play defense.”
Cissoko scored five of his 11 points in the fifth quarter.
Guard Cameron Young scored in double-figures, pouring in 12 points off-the-bench including the final four points of the game. With the shot clock winding down, he cashed a 19-foot turnaround jumper off one foot.
Prior to Young’s four-point finish, Miller and Henderson combined for 24 straight points.
“It comes with the repetition in the gym to really feel comfortable taking those shots,” Miller said. “As teammates, we see one another go into the gym and spend those hours shooting. That’s why we believe in one another to take those shots.”
Center Eric Mika recorded his seventh double-double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds for a frontcourt that’s missing a piece.
Fellow center Efe Abogidi (knee) missed his fourth straight game.
“He’s out,” Hart said. “Efe’s out indefinitely. I don’t know if Efe will be healthy enough to be back this season.”
Forward Shareef O’Neal appeared to roll his ankle late in the third quarter and did not return to the game.