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Fort Wayne Mad Ants Fight for G League Bubble Playoff Birth

Entering the closing week of the regular season, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants sit just short of the final playoff spot. With a 5-7 record, Fort Wayne will attempt to win their last three games to maximize their postseason chances.

Through the team’s first 12 games, the Mad Ants have been led by second-year wings Brian Bowen II and Oshae Brissett. Head Coach Tom Hankins has the Indiana Pacers’ affiliate running the third highest-paced offense in the league (100.9 possessions per 48 minutes).

However, the squad is only shooting 28.7% from range, which is the second-lowest rate. Coach Hankins addressed the team’s shooting woes when talking to reporters on February 23, “It’s really hard to keep playing hard and keep competing when you shoot 20% from three, when the ball’s not going in the basket.”

Errant pass proves costly as Mad Ants come up short | Mad Ants | The  Journal Gazette
(Image/Fort Wayne Mad Ants/NBAE)

The Mad Ants’ NBA Assignments:

Brian Bowen II:

The undrafted 22-year old has played the second-most minutes in the bubble thus far. The two-way player has averaged 12.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Standing at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Bowen has a knack for rebounding. On February 26 versus the Agua Caliente Clippers, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants guard/forward pulled in an impressive 16 rebounds, while scoring his season-high of 17 points.

Bowen recently explained how he gets into a rhythm in-game, “I think everything, for me, starts on the defensive end. Once I lock in on the defensive end, lock up on my matchup, just go out there, talk a lot. Get to rebounding as well. It gets me going.”

Jalen Lecque:

The springy 20-year old is on assignment from the Pacers, playing in 30.5 minutes per game. So far, the bubble has served as valuable experience to further his development.

Jalen Lecque has averaged 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game with Fort Wayne. The team’s first two games of the bubble were Lecque’s two highest-scoring outputs so far, with 24 and 25 points, respectively.

Cassius Stanley:

The two-way rookie was the 54th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft after an underwhelming freshman campaign at Duke. The reported 2021 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest participant has averaged 12.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 27.4 minutes per game for the Mad Ants.

In the most recent game versus the Lakeland Magic on February 28, Cassius Stanley had his most efficient shooting game of the bubble, so far. The Fort Wayne Mad Ants wing shot 8-12 from the field, including 4-6 from three, to accumulate 20 points.

Fort Wayne’s Other Key Contributors:

Oshae Brissett:

Oshae Brissett has been the Mad Ants’ most productive scorer. In 4 of the 8 games he has appeared in, the bucket-getter has scored 20+ points.

The Fort Wayne standout displayed his reliability offensively in back-to-back double-overtime wins on February 20 and 21. The Syracuse product played 41 minutes in each game, racking up 26, then 28 points. In those two games, he shot a combined 19-38 from the field, including 7-19 from range.

Amida Brimah:

The 27-year old center is Fort Wayne’s most important defensive player. In 7 games played so far, Amida Brimah has played 23.9 minutes per game and averaged 9.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks.

The 6-foot-10 center out of UConn is shooting an eye-popping 63.4% from the field. Brimah was named to the G League All-Defensive Team in 2018 and still carries that same defensive impact today.

Naz Mitrou-Long:

The fourth-year Iowa State guard is one of Fort Wayne’s better facilitators. Naz Mitrou-Long averages 13.5 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.2 steals in 25.6 minutes per game.

His vision was on display on February 26 against the Agua Caliente Clippers. In the win, Mitrou-Long compiled 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 12 assists, with only 3 turnovers.

Josh Gray:

The 27-year old guard has the 5th-most assists and the 6th-most steals in the G League bubble. Playing 28.5 minutes per game, Josh Gray averages 12.8 points, 5.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game.

Fort Wayne’s Week Ahead:

With such depth and talented bench players, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants should have a significant opportunity to win their last three games. Their first game of the month comes on March 2 versus the Salt Lake City Stars. The team’s final two games make up a back-to-back, starting on March 4 versus the Canton Charge.

Then their regular-season finale will be played on March 5 against the Greensboro Swarm. All of their upcoming opponents are in the bottom half of the G League standings, and are sub .500.

As the time of writing, the Mad Ants’ final three opponents have a combined record of 11-23. Fort Wayne will have to dispose of these three teams if they want any chance to make the G League bubble postseason.


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