NBA D-League Playoffs
Mad Ants at Reno (Game 1)
Tipoff: 5 p.m. Fort Wayne time Friday at the Reno Events Center, Reno, Nev.
On the web: NBA.com/dleague
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The top-seeded Mad Ants open their 2014 NBA Development League postseason with a trip to Reno, Nev., to take on the eighth-seeded Bighorns.
Here are five keys to a Mad Ants win in the first-round best-of-three series:
The Mad Ants surged to the top of the NBA Development League with a balanced offensive mindset of working for the best shot. Five players average at least 12 points per game: Ron Howard 20.5, Tony Mitchell 20.2, Trey McKinney-Jones 15.1, Matt Bouldin 12.8 and Sadiel Rojas 12.1. Mitchell is listed as day-to-day with a hamstring injury.
The Bighorns are one of the more physical teams in the league, and have some size in 6-foot-11 center Mickell Gladness and 6-10 Willie Reed, an NBA-assigned player. They also have a physical presence in 6-8, 221-pound forward DeQuan Jones. The Ants will need strong play from Will Frisby, Tim Ohlbrecht, Chris Porter and Ramon Harris inside.
The Ants have been starting strong in many games during their recent dominant play. In a few games, however, they've hit a lull in the third quarter. They should have fresh legs entering this game since they traveled to Reno on Wednesday to get acclimated to the three-hour time change The fact the game is at 2 p.m. Reno time (5 p.m. Fort Wayne time) should be a plus since it is close to Fort Wayne home game times.
The Ants are a strong free-throw shooting team, hitting 76.8 percent (Reno hits 72.8 percent). When games are tight, the difference can come at the line. Ohlbrecht hit two pivotal free throws to send the regular-season finale against Los Angeles to a second overtime on Friday. McKinney-Jones (85.7 percent) and Howard (83.4) are the team's best free-throw shooters. Ohlbrecht has hit 87.8 percent in 13 games with the Ants, and has hit 80.7 percent overall.
One of the strengths of Ants coach Conner Henry this season has been his ability to read situations and make adjustments. Henry and assistant coach Steve Gansey have been especially adept at figuring out rotations and using players in different roles to exploit matchup advantages. Fort Wayne has enough talented players that Henry can mix-and-match combinations at different times.