FORT WAYNE – Even though the location has changed from Memorial Coliseum to Santa Cruz, Calif., the D-League playoffs ball is still in the Mad Ants’ court.
With its 6-foot-10 center Jeremy Tyler rocking the Ants for 34 points in Wednesday’s opening game of the best-of-three series, Santa Cruz showed how to beat the Ants and did 124-118.
The series resumes at 10 p.m. Saturday in Santa Cruz’s Kaiser Permanente Arena.
A Fort Wayne win would would force a third game, which would be at 9 p.m. Sunday.
To get there, the Ants must find an answer for Tyler.
He had a pretty decent game, Mad Ants forward Chris Porter said. We’ve got to get some help. We’ve got to make a couple adjustments, that’s all. That’s what you do in playoffs. You’ve got to make adjustments to stop certain things.
It was the first week of January when Santa Cruz rolled into the Coliseum with a five-game winning streak then exited with a two-game losing streak.
The Ants had beaten the Warriors 102-86 on a Thursday, then two nights later, thumped them again, 118-90.
Because it’s the nature of the D-League to turn over rosters, both teams’ personnel had changed from the first two encounters. While Luke Harangody and Indiana Pacers players Miles Plumlee and Orlando Johnson were with the Ants in January, Tyler was biding his time at the end of the Golden State Warriors’ bench, averaging 1.1 points in mop-up time.
Wednesday was a different kind of mopping up.
Dominating inside, he hit 11 of 14 shots from the floor and 12 of 15 free throws. Of his 34 points, 21 came in the final quarter.
The thing I thought we had to worry about going in was containing their post players, Ants coach Duane Ticknor said. Jeremy just had a great game and really took it to us.
We’ll have to make some adjustments, Ticknor said.
There was just too much Tyler to overcome.
Tyler’s a big guy, Ants center Tommy Smith said. He demands a presence in the middle of the court. He’s 270 pounds, 6-10, so he’s a big fella.
Smith, who is 6-10, 215 pounds, and Brandon Wallace, 6-8, 225, both fouled out trying to contain Tyler. When they got in foul trouble, the 6-7, 230-pound Porter was sent in. But Porter picked up four fouls.
We’ve got to do something other than let him go one-on-one and just get to the bucket the way he did, Porter said.