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Long Island drops second straight at home to Delaware Blue Coats, 152-137

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Long Island Nets

The Long Island Nets raised their 2019 Eastern Conference championship banner at Nassau Coliseum, but despite that and the debut of their two two-way players —and a surprise performance by C.J. Massinburg, the Nets affiliate lost to the Delaware Blue Coats, 152-137, in a high scoring showdown.

It was Long Island’s second straight home loss and their record stands at 1-2.

Despite the loss, Henry Elenson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Nets two-way players, had good debuts for Long Island. Ellenson recorded 18 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes while Luwawu-Cabarrot tallied 16 points, three rebounds, and two assists in the loss.

For the development-minded Long Island Nets, the game also featured a big performance from 6’5” combo guard C.J. Massinburg, who came off the bench and led the Nets in scoring 28 points, while adding six rebounds, and three assists in the loss. The 22-year-old Massinburg was consistent throughout the game, finishing the game shooting 10-of-14 from the field and 4-of-5 from three.

Jaylen Hands also had a good outing for Long Island. The starting point guard recorded 21 points, four rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes of play. He showed off his more than 41” max vertical on more than one occasion. The 56th pick in June’s Draft, Hands was signed directly by Long Island but Brooklyn holds his rights.

For the Blue Coats, 6’10” Australian Jonah Bolden was the game-high scorer with 34 points followed by Marial Shayok with 29 points.

Long Island raised their 2018-19 NBA G League Eastern Conference Championship banner, which now hangs on the other side of the scoreboard from Julius Erving’s No. 32 jersey, prior to tip off.

With no players —or coaches— from that team on the current roster, the Nets played a video of Theo Pinson and Dzanan Musa addressing the crowd of 1,772 and expressing their love for the fans. Matt Riccardi, Long Island’s GM, was on hand. He was assistant GM last season.

As part of the celebration, the first 1,000 fans in attendance received a free Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets jersey.

The Nets head coach, Shaun Fein said post-game that while he liked some things he saw but faulted turnovers for the loss. The Blue Coats recorded 38 points off 24 Nets turnovers.

“I thought we were okay with pace. Obviously, it was higher. I mean at halftime, it was 78-74, but the biggest thing of us was turnovers,” Fein said. “That’s something we talked about pre-game all week because we’ve got to value the ball. First game, we had 18, second game we had 21 and now 24.”

Luwawu- Cabarrot said the young Nets have to play harder if they expect to win.

“This is a disappointment overall,” said the 24-year-old veteran of four NBA teams. “I got to do better, the team has got to do better. We got to do better together tomorrow at practice and come back Sunday and get our shit together and get a win.”

The Nets starting five for the game was Hands, Luwawu-Cabarrot, Ellenson, C.J. Williams and Deng Adel. The unit carried 327 NBA games worth of experience, led by TLC’s 171. Jonathan Kasibabu (left leg contusion) did not play.

The Blue Coats, Philly’s G League affiliate, started the game playing tight aggressive defense, forcing the Nets to make tough passes. They started the game with a 9-0 scoring run in the opening three minutes. The Nets continued to struggle offensively while the Blue Coats played well on both ends. With 3:13 left in the first, Shaun Fein called a timeout with his team down 32-17.

In the final three minutes and following the timeout by Fein, the Nets ended the quarter playing their second unit. The second unit finished the first, bringing the Nets within eight.

At the end of the first, Nets trailed the Blue Coats 38-30. CJ Massinburg led the team with six points, one rebound, and one assist in only four minutes of play. Both Nets two-ways had a quiet first quarter, combining for six points in 13 minutes of play.

The Nets shot 54 percent from the field and a little over 13 percent from behind the arc. In addition, Long Island turned over the ball eight times in the first.

For the Blue Coats, Bolden, one of the 76ers’ two-ways, led all scorers after one with 15 points, three rebounds, two steals, and one assist. The Blue Coats power forward shot 5-of-7 from the field and 2-of-3 from behind the arc. Delaware shot 50 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three in the first.

After a good first quarter, Fein left Massinburg to start the second along with Hands, Ellenson, Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Williams.

Long Island’s overall play improved early in the second quarter. The team moved the ball well and upped the tempo, especially on fast breaks. The Nets tied up the game with six minutes left in the first half and continued to move the ball well on the offensive end of the floor. In addition to their improved ball movement, the three-ball began to fall consistently. On the defensive end of the floor, the Nets were slow on switches, leading to Delaware to spread the floor and have open shots.

Delaware entered the game as one of the highest scoring teams in the G League. Still, at the end of the first half, the Nets led the Blue Coats, 78-74. Massinburg continued his strong play and was a main contributor on both ends of the floor. The former Buffalo guard led the team in first half scoring with 18 points followed by Jahmal McMurray, the SMU point guard, with 12 points. McMurray had his three ball working in the closing minutes of the half.

The Nets shot 63 percent from the field and 41 percent from three in the first half but tallied a 11 turnovers. Delaware recorded eight turnovers in the first half. Despite leading in turnovers, Long Island outscored Delaware 48-36 in the second quarter and 18-8 in fastbreak points at the half.

The third quarter consisted of five lead changes and both teams focused their offense inside the arc. Massinburg continued his strong play and the Nets two-ways combined for 30 points by the end of the third. Hands had 10 points and the speedy McMurray, 14.

The Nets ended the third shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from behind the arc. Long Island tallied on seven more turnovers in the third, totaling 18 total turnovers entering the fourth. At the end of three, Long Island trailed 116-104.

The Nets started the fourth quarter playing patiently and moving the ball around the perimeter on the offensive end of the floor, but the Blue Coats found the basket more often ... and took advantage of even more turnovers. With 3:20 left in the fourth, Fein called a timeout with his team down 146-129. In the end, the deficit was too much for the Nets to overcome.

The Nets had six players in double figures. Devin Cannady had 16 and McMurray finished with 14. In addition, 6’11” John Egbunu had 12 rebounds to go along with his nine points. Deng Adel, who had 27 points in the Nets last game, had only eight on Friday.

Fein had some strong praise for Massinburg post-game. The Nets had him in summer league and then signed him to a Brooklyn deal before assigning him to Long Island.

I think C.J. was really good tonight,” said the head coach. “Just his effort, his competition level was at an all time high. He’s a winner. When he was at Buffalo, they had a hell of a team. I think I said this before, you want him on the court because he’s going to make plays.”

For his part, Massinburg said the team has to improve its defense if it wants to win. Pace is fine, but without a good defense, “when you’re playing at a faster pace, you’re also giving the other team more possessions.

“I think we were in the 20’s and that’s unacceptable,” Massinburg said. “Even though it’s a lot of possessions and we’re playing fast you still have to take care of the ball because live ball turnovers, i think they scored 38 off of our turnovers or something like. That’s unacceptable we’re just learning each other right now and learning were guys are gonna be at and taking care of the ball.”

Long Island look to bounce back and snap their two-game home losing streak Sunday, when they host the Windy City Bulls at 3:00 p.m.

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Meanwhile, it’s looking less and less likely that Nicolas Claxton will be playing in Long Island anytime soon. Kenny Atkinson has been experimenting with him, playing the near 7-footer at the 4 with Brooklyn alongside Jarrett Allen or DeAndre Jordan.

“We’ve got to get our best talent on the floor,” Atkinson said. “I think he’s a talented guy. We need to find a way to play him.”