The Long Island Nets pulled off a 26-point road win, 110-84, against the Lakeland Magic on Friday night. As the first game back from All-Star break, both teams were looking to set the tone for the finishing stretch of the G League season. However, the Nets proved to be the team ready to make a statement.
Winning seven of their last 11 games, Jeremiah Martin has played a large part in these victories. Unsurprisingly, he continued his dominance against the Magic, finishing with 20 points and five rebounds.
The Magic appeared to be an even match for the Nets in the first quarter. With both teams missing players from two-way or 3-x-3 obligations, other players needed to step up in this matchup. Hassani Gravett scored the first seven points for the Magic and seemed to have that “showtime” mindset. On the other hand, Jonathan Kasibabu scored the first six for the Nets. After some back and forth action, it was the Nets ball screen offense that foreshadowed their success for the rest of the game.
The Magic played a normal contain defense on all Long Island ball screens. Yet, with a 6’11 Nicholas Claxton rolling to the basket, teams may want to make adjustments. But the Magic didn’t. Their post defenders got themselves out of position, committing too high on the ball handler, and the Nets put on a show around the rim. In fact, Claxton scored nine points in three minutes from those lob passes and converting on free throws alone.
It took a little while, but the Magic finally woke up in the second quarter. Energized defense and knocking down shots resulted in a 14-2 run. Up seven, it seemed like they had all of the momentum and were possessions away from making it a long night for the Nets. Yet, this was short lived. Shots stopped falling along with a missing presence under the basket. Sounds like a recipe for disaster…which it was. The Nets took advantage of pushing the ball in the open court from defensive rebounds and walked into halftime with an 11-point lead.
Troubles continued for the Magic into the third quarter. Unable to find any offensive rhythm, they relied heavily on contested jump shots. And very few went in. They lacked aggression and struggled to find easy baskets in the paint. But lets give credit when credit is due. Claxton, at nearly seven feet, is a huge deterrent when it comes to attacking the paint.
Although the Long Island Nets had a stretch in the third quarter of poor shot selection, unnecessary one-on-one contested jump shots, they also put together a stretch of beautiful team basketball:
Claxton, 21 points and 12 rebounds, protecting the rim in the paint forcing turnovers or blocked shots. Guards getting out in transition and completing textbook two on one series. Offensive rebounding then finding shooters, such as C.J. Williams, 17 points, who can fill it up beyond the arc.
This push in the third quarter sealed the game for the Nets.
A bright spot for the Magic, Andre Rowsey, made a push for his team in the fourth quarter. Finishing with 21 points, he knocked down a handful of ball screen jumpers in an effort to ignite a miracle. BJ Johnson and Gravett also chipped in 17 points throughout the matchup, but it was the lack of defensive stops paired with a missing post presence that led to the downfall of the Lakeland Magic.
Another key component that contributed to the Nets success, even in the fourth quarter, was their ability to get to the foul line. They shot 13-19 in comparison to 4-9 from the Magic. Considering free throws are worth two points in the G League, they can be even more impactful when converted.
It was evident that the Long Island Nets were ready to play after the ten day All Star break. They shot the ball well, played together, and kept their composure. They radiated energy and confidence. Hopefully moving forward Long Island can use the momentum from a huge road win to skyrocket them into a successful end of the season. The Nets face the Greensboro Swarm Tuesday February 24th as they look to extend their eight game win streak.