The Long Island Nets go for their fifth straight win Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum but it won’t be easy. They face the Rio Grande Vipers, the G-League’s best team, in a battle of division leaders.
One advantage the young Nets will have is Milton Doyle who’s become the franchise’s first legitimate star, averaging 20 points a game this season. Even after Sunday’s game when he finished with only 14 points (and 10 rebounds), Doyle is averaging 25.3 points in the winning streak, shooting just under 50 percent —20 of 41— from three. He’s also averaging 8.7 rebounds over that four-game stretch.
The numbers are dramatically higher than those he put up in college, at Loyola Chicago, where he averaged 15.2 in his senior year and 13.7 for his four-year career. What’s the difference between now and earlier in the year and between G-League and the NCAA?
“I think the way we've been playing with pace and moving the ball. We've been gelling together pretty well. It makes it easy,” he told Kevin Dexter at halftime during the G-League Game of the Week Sunday. “The pace and the athleticism of the game. it’s up and down all the time.”
Doyle has had the green light to shoot from his coach, Ronald Nored, and he’s taken advantage of it.
“So I feel if I have the open look, just take it. It goes in, and I’m playing well, it feels like any shot is possible,” Doyle told Dexter.
As for the team’s winning streak, the 24-year combo guard thinks part of it is the continuity and bond he has with four teammates who he’s played with going back to summer league: Tajhere McCall, Jeremy Senglin, Akil Mitchell and Jacob Wiley.
“During that whole time, it was just us five together,” Doyle noted. “On the court at the same time, whether it’s summer league, training camp or just practice. So I think we know each other and built a bond of friendship which makes it easy to play.”
The team and Doyle in particular has been helped by another summer league teammate, Isaiah Whitehead. Last week, the two combined for 62 points in a win.
“He makes my job much easier, the way he draws guys to him and the way he facilitates on the court. His leadership also,” Doyle said.
Doyle also had kind words for his coach, Nored, who’s only three years older than Doyle and played college ball at Butler, where he was the point guard on the Bulldogs’ back-to-back trips to the NCAA national championship games.
“I think he relates to us better because he just stopped playing. So he kinda knows what we’re going through. So he makes the adjustment to the game even easier. His knowledge of the game is just out there.”
Wednesday’s opponent, the Vipers, are 11-3 and led by a familiar face, R.J. Hunter, who played for Long Island last season. He dropped 40 points two nights ago. it wouldn’t be surprising if the game featured a shootout between the two.