Springfield Armor head coach Bob MacKinnon Jr. and his assistant, former Duke standout Chris Carrawell, joined the New Jersey Nets coaching staff for the last few regular season games. The two coaches were on hand for an emotional final game in the Garden State, just adding to a season full of emotions.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Despite a desperation comeback, the Eastern Conference champion, Springfield Armor fell 115-106 (box score) in a decisive Game 3 against the Canton Charge in the first round of the D-League Playoffs at the MassMutual Center.
In a season that saw the Armor pull off the greatest turnaround in D-League history, first-year head coach Bob MacKinnon Jr. didn't want to discuss the outcome, but rather a season filled with bright moments.
When asked about the game, MacKinnon responded: "I don't know. I don't care at this point. That's in the past."
"We're focused on these players as individuals," said the first-year head coach. "I'm just so proud of the effort they put forward all year."
"I'm not going to let a loss or two diminish what this team has accomplished," said MacKinnon. "To get a group of guys who are willing to sacrifice for one another everyday; it was an honor to coach them."
Springfield trailed by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter. With just over three minutes remaining, the Armor put together a late run. L.D. Williams threw down a dunk to cut the lead to 110-101, marking the first time Springfield trailed by single-digits since 4:42 of the second quarter.
The late-game comeback was too little, too late, as Springfield's season ended on their home floor. Although the No. 7 Charge knocked off the No. 2 Armor, it can't be much of an upset. Springfield only led Canton by two games at the end of the season.
Springfield got off to a good start, much like in Sunday's win, but then Canton took control. Kyle Gibson and Tyrell Biggs were unstoppable all night and gave Canton a controlling lead, scoring the first 13 Canton points in the second quarter.
The Charge offense was firing on all cylinders Monday night. Canton scored 50 points in the paint, while connecting on six 3-pointers. Canton held a double-digit lead from the last few minutes of second quarter all the way to the fourth quarter.
The Charge lead got as high as 21 points.
Canton won the battle on the glass, outrebounding Springfield 48-31. In each game of the series, the team that controlled the boards won the game.
Williams had a game-high 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Springfield. JamesOn Curry poured in 24 points and dished out six assists, while Dennis Horner chipped in 21 points.
Canton was led by Antoine Agudio who had a team-high 24 points. But Gibson (23 points) and Biggs (21 points) were the heroes of the game. The two forwards hit big shot after big shot, especially when Springfield was starting to get in a flow.
The Charge advance to the semi-finals to play the Austin Toros.
Springfield improved its record by 16 wins. Horner and Jerry Smith were both called up by the Nets, while Jeff Foote was called up by the Hornets. Smith, Curry, and Foote were all D-League All-Stars.
"My only disappointment is that I don't get to go to practice tomorrow with them again," said MacKinnon.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass -- It took any extra period, but the Springfield Armor earned its first win in playoff history Sunday night defeating the Canton Charge 125-116 (box score) at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The Armor tied the best-of-three series after dropping the first game in Canton on Friday night. Sunday’s win sets the stage for a decisive Game 3 Monday night in Springfield.
Former Nets forward Dennis Horner scored 12 of his 29 points from the fourth quarter on. He also grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds. He scored six straight Armor points to open the fourth and during a back-and-forth quarter scored the last six points to tie the game at 113 sending the game into overtime.
JamesOn Curry, who had a game-high 30 points and seven assists, had a chance to win the game in regulation, but was called for an offensive foul with 0.4 seconds remaining. It was one of the few times a Curry drive didn’t end in an Armor bucket.
Curry and Horner led the way in overtime as Curry knocked down a foul line jumper early. And after a Canton miss, Horner got fouled and sank a pair of free throws.
Charge forward Luke Harangody, who was re-assigned from Cleveland earlier in the day, buried a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 117-116, but that would be the final basket of the night for the Charge.
Springfield scored eight unanswered to take Game 2.
“We worked all season to get here,” said Horner. “I didn’t want to go out like that tonight.”
Springfield came out on fire. The Armor connected on seven of the first eight shots and quickly grabbed a 26-10 lead, the largest lead of the game. Curry did a terrific job of getting into the lane and either getting fouled or finding an open teammate. The Armor also benefited from good outside shooting.
On the defensive end, Springfield swarmed Canton, never letting them get a good look. However, late in the first quarter and into the second, the defensive intensity faded and Canton was able to crawl back into the game, trailing at half 64-57.
In the third, Canton grabbed its first lead of the contest, 70-69, four minutes in on a Dante Milligan floater. The Charge held the Armor to a miserable 5-for-15 shooting in the third.
“We wanted to get the basket and get to the line,” said MacKinnon. “I thought we stayed with it. There was only one stretch in the third quarter where we started relying on jump shots.”
The Armor took 54 shots from the foul line Sunday night, 31 more than on Friday.
Springfield was also strong on the boards Sunday, much improved from Friday’s loss where the Charge outrebounded the Armor 53-41. Sunday, Springfield owned the boards 44-27.
“That was a big focus for us,” said MacKinnon. “Friday night was disappointing. Not that we lost, but that we got outworked. I thought that we worked as hard as they did tonight.”
Monday’s game begins at 7 p.m. from the MassMutual Center.
“All we have is one more game and if you can’t get up for that, you shouldn’t be in this business,” said MacKinnon.
Jerry Smith had a game-high 20 points, while Jeff Foote added a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds, leading the way for a 105-98 win over the Texas Legends to win the Eastern Conference and clinch the No. 2 seed in the D-League Playoffs.
Springfield (29-21) has now secured the best turnaround in D-League history. The Armor finished last season 13-37.
The Springfield Armor are your 2012 Eastern Conference Champions and #2 seed in the NBA D-League Playoffs w/ home court advantage! #ArmorUp
— Springfield Armor (@armorhoops) April 8, 2012
The Armor's first round matchup will be the Canton Charge. The first game of the quarterfinals will be held Apr. 15 at 7 p.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The Armor won two out of three this season against the Charge.
Follow Terrence on Twitter: @terrence_payne for coverage of the Nets' minor league affiliate
The Springfield Armor could have clinched a playoff spot last night in Portland against the Maine Red Claws. However the Armor were upended by the Red Claws in overtime 110-101. It was Springfield's third game in four days with two of those games going to overtime.
However Springfield (27-20) was helped out by the Texas Legends who defeated the Iowa Energy 103-98 to ensure that the Armor will make the first postseason appearance in franchise history.
The Eastern Conference-leading Armor have three games left on the road to wrap up a very successful 2011-2012 campaign. If all goes Springfield's way, the Armor will host its first playoff game as early as Apr. 11.
First-year head coach Bob MacKinnon is a proven winner in the D-League, leading the Colorado 14ers to D-League Championship in 2009.
The playoff berth is just another accomplishment in a long list of accolades for the Armor this season. Springfield has a franchise-record for wins, as well as All-Star selections (3) and Gatorade Call-Ups (3) including the most recent call-up, Dennis Horner, who was picked up by the Nets for the second time this season last week.
Follow Terrence on Twitter for more updates on the Nets minor league affiliate.
During the Nets 100-84 win Wednesday night over the Indiana Pacers, both Williams forwards, Shelden and Jordan, left the game with injuries.
The New Jersey frontline is in need of bodies and according to RidiculousUpside.com the Nets will re-acquire Springfield Armor forward Dennis Horner.
Horner made the team out of training camp as an invitee along with Armor teammates Jerry Smith and JamesOn Curry. The former NC State big man saw action in five games before being waived by the Nets on Jan. 18.
The 6-foot-9 Horner has played well all season for Springfield, averaging 17 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest. Recently, Horner has posted back-to-back double-doubles against Canton and Maine. In Saturday's win over Canton, Horner had 21 points and 11 boards, while recording 29 points and ripping down 15 rebounds in Tuesday's win over Maine.
Jordan suffered a mild concussion from an inadvertent elbow from Roy Hibbert in the third quarter. While Shelden was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center for further examination.
The carousel of players going and leaving for the Armor continue. Jerry Smith and Jeff Foote have both returned from 10-day stints with New Jersey and New Orleans.
Horner is now the first Armor player in history to be called up to the NBA twice.
Dennis Horner following his first call-up to the NBA:
Thursday's trade deadline saw the Nets make a move to acquire Blazers forward Gerald Wallace. This trade opened up a roster spot and the Nets decided to call up Jerry Smith from the Nets D-League affiliate, the Springfield Armor.
Smith confirmed it earlier via his Twitter account, @JSmith_8
So blessed to have this opportunity!!! Thank you lord I know it's all your work! #GoNets!
No he's not Dwight Howard, but Smith is a quality guard who offers a lot.
During year and half service with Springfield, Smith has played both guard positions, showing a nice shooting touch from behind the arc as he did in his days a Louisville.
Smith is also one of the more aggressive on ball defenders the D-League has to offer.
The 6-foot-2 Smith has had an excellent year for the Armor this season. He began the year in the Nets training camp along with teammates JamesOn Curry and former-Net Dennis Horner. He was also selected as a D-League All-Star and was named D-League Player of the Month for February.
Smith was averaging 19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game in 32 contests for Springfield this season. He is the second player called up during the Nets-Armor hybrid affiliation - Horner was called up after training camp.
It's been a string of good news recently for the Nets minor league affiliate. Earlier this week it was announced that center Jeff Foote signed with the New Orleans Hornets.
Springfield will return to action Friday night on the road at Tulsa.
Springfield Armor center Jeff Foote became the second Armor big man to receive a coveted Gatorade Call-Up this season, as he signed with the New Orleans Hornets Friday morning.
Foote was not in action in Springfield's 106-101 loss Thursday night to the Canton. The former Cornell-star averaged 14.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, a 1.1 blocks per game this season for Springfield. He was also one of three Armor players named as an All-Star. Foote spent training camp wit the Portland Trailblazers earlier this season.
JamesOn Curry, who also spent training camp with Horner and the Nets, was called up in 2010 with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Foote, who started 28 of 29 games this season for the Armor, is leaving quite a whole in the Armor frontline. Jamar Brown, who started Thursday night in place of Foote, will get more minutes with Foote gone. The newly-acquired Hornet is expected to be activated for Friday night's game against the Denver Nuggets.
The Armor host the Iowa Energy Friday night a 7 p.m. at the MassMutual Center.
Springfield has dropped three straight since the All-Star break. Iowa leads Springfield by a game and a half for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Armor pounded the Energy the last two times these teams have met.
The one D-League team that didn’t want to see the All-Star break had to be the New Jersey Nets affiliate, the Springfield Armor.
Springfield is playing its best basketball of the season (and of its short three-year existence). The Armor are riding an eight-game winning streak and after a pair of dominating wins against the Eastern Conference-leading Iowa Energy last week, Springfield sits 21-13, just one game behind Iowa.
Springfield’s rapid improvement
The New Jersey Nets stepped into a tough situation last May when they formed a hybrid affiliation with Springfield. The Nets took over a team that won only 20 games out of the first 100 contests.
The hiring of Milton Lee, as General Manager of Minor League Operations, and Bob MacKinnon as head coach.
MacKinnon, with 16 games remaining on the schedule, has already won more games than Dee Brown did in his two-year stint on the Armor bench.
The hybrid formation has already provided one call-up already this season. Armor forward, Dennis Horner was able to step in after the Nets had a few injuries in the frontcourt to begin the season.
Along with Horner, center Jeff Foote and guard JamesOn Curry and Jerry Smith have also been talked about as top prospects.
Armor’s All-Star weekend
Springfield continued its success in the month of February with several Armor players taken home hardware from Orlando.
Smith along with Sioux Falls’ Marqus Blakely and Fort Wayne’s Cameron Jones won the Haier Shooting Stars Challenge.
For the second time in as many tries, Armor guard/forward L.D. Williams took home the Slam Dunk title.
As for the game, the Armor had a trio of players elected to the All-Star game.
Curry lead the east with a team-high 25 points. Foote had a team-high seven rebounds and Smith, who started the game has 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds. East would fall
In the Armor’s final 16 games, only three are against teams that are over .500.
Springfield closes out the regular season with four games on the road with four games in seven nights. The Armor will start that season ending road trip in Maine before making stops in Erie, Austin, and finally Texas.
Springfield begins the final stretch of the season Friday on the road against Maine. The Armor are back in the birthplace of basketball Mar. 8 to host Canton.
The Springfield Armor picked up the biggest win of their current six-game win streak. The Armor (19-13) took down the Eastern Conference-leading Iowa Energy (19-10) 117-102 (box score) Thursday night at the MassMutual Center.
In a physical battle from start to finish, Springfield took the lead early, breaking a 12-12 tie with 13 unanswered points. The Armor would close out the final six minutes of the first quarter, outscoring the Energy 20-8.
“We did a good job of coming out and playing hard,” said Armor head coach Bob MacKinnon. “We kept our poise and composure during the game.”
JamesOn Curry fueled the team in the first half, with 14 of his 19 points coming in the first quarter. Along with fellow guard Jerry Smith, Curry provided nice pressure on defense, helping the Armor force 11 first half Iowa turnovers.
“JamesOn has been so consistent this year it’s phenomenal,” said MacKinnon.
However, the Armor left the door open late in the half for Iowa. The Energy began to chip away at the lead and cut it as close as six.
The Energy backcourt caused the burst. Guard Mike Efevberha scored 18 of his game-high 34 points in the second quarter, while point guard Curtis Stinson was an excellent facilitator, dishing out nine assists in the quarter.
Springfield began the second half with another strong performance, stretching the lead back up to double digits. Iowa would get it to single digits on several occasions, but not enough to make a run at the suddenly-hot Armor.
With five minutes to play in the third quarter, Iowa forward Patrick Ewing Jr. was ejected after his second personal foul following a scuffle with Armor forward Dennis Horner.
On his way out of the arena, Ewing removed his jersey and got into a confrontation with a fan.
Iowa head coach Kevin Young was quick to follow Ewing to the locker, after he picked up his second technical foul, upset that Horner was not issued a technical as well.
“This is one of the most contentious games I’ve ever been a part of,” said Armor center Jeff Foote. “I’m from the Ivy League, we’re not used to this.”
Aside from the two ejections, two other technical fouls were called, both on Springfield.
A chippy game throughout has set the stage for Friday night’s rematch back at the MassMutual Center.
“We’ll try and make the improvements we need to make and hopefully we’ll come out with a good effort,” said MacKinnon.
Jerry Smith and L.D. Williams (like Curry) finished with 19 points. Preston Knowles had 17 points off the bench. Curry also led the team with 11 assists.
Click below for Armor center and Cornell graduate Jeff Foote on his rookie season, All-Star selection, and New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin
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Wednesday afternoon the NBA Development League announced the rosters for the sixth annual D-League All-Star, which included Springfield Armor guards JamesOn Curry and Jerry Smith, as well as center Jeff Foote.
Curry, in his third year with the Armor, is averaging 16.9 points per game and a team-high 6.3 assists per game.
Foote, spent training camp with the Portland Trailblazers, was a late edition to the team, but has shined defensively. The 7-footer has also added a nice offensive game by averaging over 14 points and 8 boards a game.
It has been a big week for Smith, who was named D-League Performer of the Week on Monday. The 6-foot-2 Smith leads the Armor with 17.7 points per game. This is his first All-Star honor.
Three players selected is tied with the Los Angeles D-Fenders for most selections.
Through the entire D-League season, Springfield Armor guard Jerry Smith has proved to be one of the top point guards in the league.
Monday afternoon, Smith, the former Louisville standout, was named the NBA Development League Performer of the Week for the week of Jan. 30-Feb. 5.
In two games this week, both wins against the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the 6-foot-2 Smith averaged 26.5 points per game 11.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists.
Smith leads the Armor in scoring at 17.7 points per game.
He was also one of three Armor players invited to Nets training camp at the beginning of the season.