The 2016-17 season came to an end last week for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers’ D-League affiliate, with a 124-119 road loss to the Maine Red Claws in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.
Fort Wayne led 105-103 after two free throws by Pacers rookie Georges Niang with 6:39 remaining, but the Red Claws scored five unanswered points over the next 50 seconds and never surrendered the lead for the remainder of the contest.
Trey McKinney-Jones led the Mad Ants with 30 points in the loss, while Travis Leslie scored 24 off the bench.
Former Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough recorded a double-double, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Niang added 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, five rebounds, and seven assists.
All in all, it was a very successful season for Fort Wayne under second-year head coach Steve Gansey. Despite a massive amount of roster turnover between NBA call-ups, D-League assignments from the Pacers, and players signing overseas contracts, the Mad Ants finished the regular season 30-20, the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Rookie forward Alex Poythress was the team’s leading scorer. The former University of Kentucky star, who spent training camp with the Pacers, averaged 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 46 games. He was rewarded both with a selection to the D-League All-Star team and with a contract with the Philadelphia 76ers in April.
Hansbrough was a force after signing with the Mad Ants on March 2. Hungry to prove he still can contribute to an NBA roster, the former Pacers first-round draft pick averaged 17.6 points and 12.2 rebounds while shooting 54.3 percent from the field in 13 regular season games. Hansbrough was even better in three postseason games, averaging 25.0 points and 15.3 rebounds while shooting 64.3 percent from the field.
Niang got the most experience of any young Pacers player in Fort Wayne. The rookie forward out of Iowa State averaged 19 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in six regular season games and 15.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in the playoffs.
Second-year players Rakeem Christmas and Joe Young also made appearances with the Mad Ants during the regular season, with Christmas playing in nine games and Young appearing in two contests.
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