Mistakes down-the-stretch haunt Ignite in season opener
The G League Ignite went cold when it mattered most as the team dropped its season opener at home ahead of a historic season for the NBA’s development group.
The Ignite lost to the Oklahoma City Blue, 134-125, Friday, Nov. 4 from The Dollar Loan Center. In the second half, the team was outscored 80-48.
“This is the second time we’ve had that big of a lead – we did that against the French team too,” head coach Jason Hart said. “We know how to start a game off but this is a 48-minute NBA game so guys have to get used to the grind of 48 minutes.”
Earlier this morning, the team announced that the 44-year old head coach had been extended through next season.
Hart is at the helm of an Ignite team that is headed for a historic season of firsts for the program. This year will see the Ignite embark on a full 50-game schedule which begins with back-to-back home games from The DLC.
Next, the team will turn its attention to the Salt Lake City Stars. That game is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 6 with tipoff slated for 5 p.m.
“We’re working on that right now,” forward Efe Abogidi said. “We’re going to turn the tide, this is just a game. Even though we lost this game, I think we’re going to come out in the next game and do better.”
The Ignite built a lead as large as 28 points in the second quarter but was not able to hold off a feverish comeback effort by the Blue.
“I feel like we came out in the third quarter a little slow,” guard Scoot Henderson said. “I feel like as a team we just have to get better at that during practice. After we sit down for a couple of minutes, we still have to have that same energy that came in the first quarter.”
Coming out of halftime, Oklahoma City used a 10-2 run to trim the deficit to 15 points. By the end of the quarter the lead was down to single-digits.
With 7:35 to go in the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 112 apiece, the game’s first tie since 4-4 in the opening quarter. Not long after, the Blue would snag their first lead of the game since 4-2 in the first quarter. Coming into the season, Hart admitted down-the-stretch this team will lean on its young players rather than turning to its veterans as part of the developmental process.
“I thought they hung in there,” Hart said. “They fought until the end. That’s part of the growing process, they’ve got to be out on the floor to figure this thing out.”
Turnovers told the story as the NBA’s G League group was sped up several times in the final 12 minutes resulting in careless mistakes. The Ignite ended the game with 16 turnovers to which the opponents scored 33 points on the other end.
After the game, Abogidi talked about the 48-minute NBA game compared to a 40-minute collegiate game.
“For me, it’s kind of different,” he said. “Every quarter is 12 minutes, I used to play 20-minute halves in college so it’s a bit of an adjustment. It’s a longer stretch of game.”
Early in the game, it was the exact opposite for the Ignite as it forced the Blue into five first quarter turnovers on the way to 22 for the game.
“In the first part of the game we played tremendous defense,” Hart said. “But an NBA game is long, it’s 48 minutes, so as the game went on and the physicality started to creep up into us we started to wane. Our defense was poor in the second half.”
Oklahoma City gave up 23 points on those 22 turnovers.
That first quarter saw the Ignite build a lead as large as 23 points on the shoulders of a fast start from Abogidi.
“I was just doing what the team wanted, what the coaches wanted,” he said. “Just doing my job and being diligent with it. That’s going to put me in a great position to just play.”
Abogidi raced out to a 17-point first quarter on a perfect 7-of-7 from the field including an exclamation point at the end of the frame in the form of a monster block stuffing what would’ve been a sure poster.
“It gave us great energy,” Henderson said. “Efe was killing [so] we kept going back to him on the offensive side. So when you play offense, it’s only right to play defense and vice versa. He played his heart out today and that’s just who he is.”
Abogidi finished with 23 points on 9-of-10 from the field to go along with six rebounds and a block. His only miss on the night came about midway through the third quarter.
The Ignite were led in scoring by Henderson, who poured in 25 points on 7-of-16 from the field.
Four other Ignite players scored in double-figures including 19 points from John Jenkins and 14 from Aubrey Dawkins off-the-bench. Forwards Leonard Miller and Mojave King both added 11 apiece from their starter roles.
Both Dawkins and Miller fouled out in this one.