NBA D-League playoffs
Mad Ants vs. Reno
First round (Best of three)
Game 1: 5 p.m. Fort Wayne time Friday in Reno
Game 2: 7 p.m. Sunday, April 13, at Memorial Coiseum
Game 3 (if necessary): 7 p.m. April 15 at the coliseum
For more on the Mad Ants, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1
The Mad Ants picked the lowest-seeded Reno Bighorns today as their first-round opponent in the NBA Development League playoffs.
Fort Wayne had first choice of opponents after earning the No.1 seed in the playoffs with their D-League-best 34-16 record. The Ants will play the first game of the best-of-three series at 5 p.m. Fort Wayne time Friday in Reno.
Fort Wayne will host the second game 7 p.m. next Sunday at Memorial Coliseum, with a third game (if necessary) on April 15 at the coliseum.
Reno finished with a 27-23 record and the No.8 seed and final spot in the playoffs. The Bighorns have lost 10 of their last 14 games, although two of those wins were against playoff teams Iowa and Rio Grande Valley.
The Mad Ants, who beat second-seeded Los Angeles 129-128 on Friday in their regular-season finale, have won 10 of their last 11 games and and 17 of their last 20.
Reno is led in scoring by 6-foot-8 DeQuan Jones at 13.7 points per game while 6-10 Willie Reed averages 14.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game and 6-7 Mo Charlo averages 12.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Also on the Reno roster is former Mad Ants guard Walker Russell Jr., who rejoined the Bighorns in late February. Russell has been injured and did not play in the last three games.
The Ants beat Reno 114-89 on Dec. 26 in their only meeting this season. Both teams' rosters have changed since that meeting.
Mad Ants coach Conner Henry, assistant coach Steve Gansey and president Jeff Potter debated which opponent to select before deciding on Reno.
“At the end of the day, you have to have the mentality, whoever we're paying, to be focused and trust our system and play for each other,” Henry said last week. “I've been through this twice. Once with LA two years ago and then my two playoff years in Australia had a similar system. Playing away for that one game and then coming home for two – whether you're the one with the better or lesser record, it's always a challenge.”
Henry says even winning the first game on the road offers no guarantees.
“In LA, we had the great team and we go down to Austin in the finals,” Henry said. “It goes double overtime and we win the game and we go back to our place having to win one and we lost both games. Can you overthink this? I think you can. It's the team that's united as a group and plays for each other every possession that has the best chance to win.”
Some teams will add NBA-assigned players for the postseason, although the Ants do not expect to have any assigned to them. Reno is affiliated with the Sacramento Kings.
Potter said it's a delicate situation picking an opponent because it usually results in the chosen team feeling slighted or disrespected and, subsequently, more motivated.
“The most important thing is: I just want to survive and advance,” Potter said.
The other first-round D-League playoff games are Los Angeles vs. Santa Cruz, Iowa vs. Rio Grande Valley and Sioux Falls vs. Canton.