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[The Monitor] Vipers edged by Mad Ants, but Canaan's play is silver lining

Discussion in 'Rio Grande Valley Vipers' started by HoopScribe, Jan 26, 2015.

  1. HoopScribe

    HoopScribe Member

    Jul 19, 2013
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    HIDALGO — The result of the Vipers’ 128-123 loss to Fort Wayne on Saturday at State Farm Arena did not matter. It snuffed a five-game winning streak and halted momentum, sure, but it was ultimately inconsequential.

    The real test, for the Vipers and NBA parent club Houston, was how Rockets assignee Isaiah Canaan, still recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in November, would respond to a back-to-back set of games. And on that task, all parties passed.

    The second-year guard overcame a poor start through the first three quarters Saturday, when he had 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting, to rally the Vipers back on 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting in the fourth quarter before the Mad Ants countered the rally with one of their own to secure the nail-biting win.

    “(The ankle) felt good,” said Canaan, who played 27 minutes and finished in a tie with Glen Rice Jr. with a team-high 23 points “It kind of got fatigued on me and a little weak there at the end, but it’s alright. I’ve just got to keep pushing.”

    The Vipers (12-13) trailed by 6 early in the fourth quarter. Twice in the period, Canaan drilled 3s to turn a deficit into a lead. He hit 3 of 6 triples in the quarter.

    Canaan finished a game strong for the second straight night, which he and coach Nevada Smith said was encouraging.

    “I always want to finish a game better than I start,” said Canaan, who added seven assists. “I always believe the next shot I shoot is going to go in; I’ll always have that confidence. I don’t worry about the next shot. I worry about the next play and how can I make my teammates better.”

    Down 126-123 with 14.8 seconds left, the Vipers found the 6-foot-6 Rice mismatched on a pick-and-pop play against 6-foot point guard Gary Talton. Rice dribbled to create some space, then launched a 3 that was clear but well contested physically that skittered off the rim.

    “We wanted to go pick-and-pop with Glen, let him create,” Smith said. “He had the choice to shoot it or drive it. He got a decent look.”

    The Vipers led by 11 twice in the game, in the first quarter buoyed by eight 3s and in the third quarter. But each time, the Mad Ants answered.

    In the second half, the two teams combined for 39 fouls and 60 free-throw attempts opposed to 15 and 22, respectively, in the first half. The constant stoppage of play helped Fort Wayne, a halfcourt-oriented team, a lot more than the Vipers, who prefer to play with pace.

    “It definitely had an effect,” Smith said of the fouls. “But we have to be better; we have to play through that stuff. We were complaining about fouls too much, and we lost focus.”

    The foul trouble particularly hindered Rice, who had five with 10:30 left in the game. He played only nine minutes in the second half.

    In 22 total minutes, Rice compiled 23 points, six rebounds and three assists, proving to be a matchup nightmare for the Mad Ants. But not often enough.
    “The foul trouble can’t happen,” Rice said. “I’ve got to play a lot smarter. I’m not doing the team any good sitting down and not being able to play. I can’t let it frustrate me. I’ve got to get past that.”

    FAST BREAKS: Rockets assignee Clint Capela finished with 17 points (on 8-for-8 shooting), nine rebounds and a block, but he fouled out. Capela played 31 minutes. Smith said the 6-10, 245-pound rookie center, recovering from a preseason groin injury, has had his minutes-restriction extended from 27 to “in the 30ish range.” … Rockets assignee Nick Johnson had 11 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals in 32 minutes. … Former Texas Tech standout Andre Emmett scored a game-high 35 points on 10-for-16 shooting to go with eight rebounds and four assists.

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