With Ike Anigbogu and Alex Poythress back with the Mad Ants from the Pacers and Trey McKinney-Jones off the injured list, Indiana’s positionless affiliate squad didn’t exactly function like normal against the Westchester Knicks on Saturday.
“We weren't talking tonight. We weren't picking each other up. We weren't playing Mad Ants basketball,” head coach Steve Gansey told The Journal Gazette’s Justin A. Cohn, after Westchester put an end to Fort Wayne’s 8-game win streak. “Additions (to the lineup), we've got to figure it out and keep playing for each other and keep sharing that ball. I thought we were very stagnant. They punked us a little bit. They were talking trash and we kind of laid down to them.”
Besides Walter Lemon Jr. being held to only nine points on 3-of-12 shooting and Ben Moore only getting three shots after scoring 28 points on 12 field goal attempts the game prior, perhaps the biggest departure from “Mad Ants basketball” was the overall shift in the flow of the offense.
Put simply, here’s the floor spacing with Jarrod Uthoff, who is shooting 38.6 percent from three on 4.4 attempts per game, playing the five.
And here it is with Anigbogu manning the same position.
On the night, the majority of the 19-year-old’s nine field goal attempts were post-ups, many of which highlighted his clunky footwork and continued reliance on simple hook shots.
It was odd.
Given that the Pacers are currently running the most pick-and-roll heavy offense in the NBA, it seems highly unlikely that Fort Wayne’s parent club would spend precious seconds of the shot clock establishing their still incredibly raw second-round draft pick on the low block, even if he starts to show modest signs of improvement in that area.
From Fort Wayne’s perspective, his presence in the paint had a tendency to throw a wrench in Lemon Jr.’s ability to dissect his opponent’s defense, which is at the core of their offense.
Notice, here, how the G League’s fourth-leading scorer (24.8 points per game) was forced to make a split-second decision to throw a cross-court pass when Anigbogu bottled up his driving lane. Fortunately, Uthoff reacted by relocating to the corner, otherwise this would’ve been a certain turnover.
Moving forward, it seems like it would be more to the benefit of both sides if there was greater emphasis on developing his hands to catch drop passes.
Or, when running the floor in transition.
Doing so would be less of a hindrance to Fort Wayne’s interchangeability as well as Lemon’s quickness while also being more in line with how he might be used at the next level.
Unfortunately, neither of these possessions (both of which ended with made dunks) occurred until the game was already well out of reach.
On the night, Anigbogu was minus-11 in 24 minutes.
The Mad Ants will be back in action tonight at home against the Reno Bighorns.