The Fort Wayne Mad Ants and the Santa Cruz Warriors will meet in the 2015 NBA D-League Finals starting on April 23.
Fort Wayne is looking to become just the second team in D-League history to win back-to-back titles while Santa Cruz is in the Finals for the third straight season according to Our Sports Central. The franchises met in last year’s Finals, which Fort Wayne won 2-0.
The Mad Ants, who are the only independent team in the 18-team league, finished second in the Central Division at 28-22. As the No. 4 team in the Eastern Conference, Fort Wayne defeated Maine 2-0 in the first round and then defeated Canton 2-0 in the conference finals.
The Warriors (Golden State) finished atop of the West Division at 35-15, which matched the Maine Red Claws for best record in the D-League. The Warriors defeated Oklahoma City (2-0) in the opening round and then defeated Austin 2-1 in the conference finals.
Santa Cruz, which features Golden State assignee Ognjen Kuzmic in the middle, was one of the best defensive team in the league, finishing fourth in the in scoring defense. The Warriors were No. 1 in defensive rating, surrendering 102.8 points per 100 possessions, finishing fourth in scoring defense. Santa Cruz was also the second best team sharing the basketball, averaging over 26 dimes a game, and averaged over 109 points during the regular season.
Players to watch:
Jordan Crawford: Crawford has been fabulous in the playoffs, averaging 29.8 points and 6.8 rebounds a contest. He is the main reason the Mad Ants are even in the playoffs as Fort Wayne went 6-2 after signing the 24-year old. Crawford averaged 22. 6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals in eight regular season games.
C.J. Fair: Fair, who was named second team to the All- Rookie D-League team, has stepped up his game since the playoffs started. He has reached the 20 point plateau in his last seven games and is averaging 26.0 points and 8.0 rebounds during the playoffs. Fair averaged 13.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor in the regular season.
Trey McKinney-Jones: McKinney-Jones averaged 12.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists during the regular season. He shot 45 percent from the floor.
Mychal Thompson: Thompson has shot the ball the best of his career this season, making 45.8 percent of his shots. He averaged 14.2 points and 1.2 steals a game during the regular season. He also has made 1.8 three-pointers per contest and shoots 37 percent from beyond the arc.
Aaron Craft: The undrafted rookie has been sensational the entire season. Craft, who was named the D-League Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 9.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.7 turnovers a contest during the regular season.
Ognjen Kuzmic: Kuzmic scored 20 points, on 9-of-16 shooting, and grabbed 16 rebounds in Game Three of the series against Austin. The third team All-Defensive Team selection averaged 12.8 points and 12.0 rebounds during the regular season.
The series is a best of three games.
Game 1: Warriors @ Mad Ants Thursday, 8 PM ET, ESPNews
Game 2: Mad Ants @ Warriors Sunday, 7 PM ET, ESPNU
Game 3 (if necessary): Mad Ants @ Warriors Monday 10 PM ET, ESPNU
(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)