The Ants have a crowded roster. They recently acquired several players, and then, in addition to our two guys, the Pacers sent down SG Orlando Johnson. Tonight was Johnson's first game with the Ants this year (he played 4 games with them last year). There are also two Tony Mitchells on the team, but I will only be writing about OUR Tony Mitchell in this post.
Up until tonight, both Siva and Mitchell usually started, but Johnson got the start over Siva. However, with 6:07 remaining in the 1st quarter, the Ants were down 19 - 6, and Siva was put in. By the end of the 1st half the Ants had cut the deficit to 52 - 46. In the 2nd half, the Ants really tightened up on defense and held the Skyforce to 3 of 17 in the 3rd quarter and 7 of 24 in the 4th quarter. The Ants won 93 - 81. Both Siva and Mitchell had a terrific defensive presence in that half. Although neither of our guys were top scorers, and in fact Siva only attempted 5 shots the whole game, in my opinion the Ants would not have won tonight without them.
You all know Siva is my guy, but I HAVE to start with Tony Mitchell. I can not tell you how much better he is playing and how good this experience has been for him. Let's start with the fact that he had a Double-Double. He also had the most rebounds of anyone on the team. The announcers complemented his rebounding and defensive presence multiple times. He had a layup with 2:48 remaining in the game that took the Ants lead to 87 - 74. He hit two FT's with less than a minute left in the game. Yes, he's still making rookie mistakes. For example, at least twice that I can recall Siva gave him beautiful feeds under the basket and he muffed the layups. He had a great steal, but decided to try to take the ball down the court himself and got called for a foul. However, did anyone besides me see those early games, oh my, nice improvement.
Mitchell's stats: 27 minutes, 3 of 8 FG, 6 of 8 FT, 5 ORB plus 9 DRB (14 total), 1 Ast, 1 Steal, 3 TO, 1 Block, 12 points.
Siva played way better than his stats tonight, other than his shooting. He only attempted 5 shots (I have to think his wrist must not be fully healed). One of his shots was blocked, and he was fouled on another. The announcer said something multiple times that almost made me fall out of my chair (and I saw all the games when he was on his hot shooting streak). (At least before tonight's game) He said that Siva currently is the best 3 point shooter in the entire d-league. Anyway, Siva is starting to get his rhythm back and look like the great leader I know. Especially in the 2nd half, he was poised, in control, directing the guys, and true a defensive pest. He threw lots of beautiful passes that guys just muffed. For example, one guy all alone under the basket tried to dunk too hard and the ball bounced out, another guy all alone let the ball roll off his fingertips on an easy layup. This post is getting long, but I have to tell you at least a couple of his defensive plays. Three times he was the only defender to beat the break and stop easy layups, all at or above the rim. He was called for fouls on two of them, but cleanly knocked the third out of bounds. At the very end of the game, he blocked a 3 point shot. I've seem him jump high, but I've never seen him jump that high!
Siva's stats: 27 minutes, 1 of 5 FG (including 0 of 2 3's), 6 of 6 FT, 3 DRB, 2 Ast, 2 Steals, 2 TO, 1 Block, 8 points.
Our guys are scheduled to play 3 more games with the Ants:
2/9 Canton, 5 PM
2/12 Bakersfield Jam, 7 PM
2/13 Sioux Falls (again), 7 PM
I will post game recaps for those in the comments section on this post, so check back if you're interested.
I want to close by saying our guys had an absolute blast tonight, high-fiving and hip bumping. Siva literally danced off the floor. I don't want them to go back to rotting on the bench.