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Long Island Nets squash Fort Wayne Mad Ants to win season opener, 121-117

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Long Island Nets

The Long Island Nets opened their season with a win, defeating the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 121-117, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

After a slowish first half, the Nets came out of the locker room at halftime with higher energy. Without both two-ways, Henry Ellenson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Nets still had seven players in double-figures in their road win. Shaun Fein, the new Long Island Nets head coach, notched his first win at the helm.

Devin Cannady, an Indiana native, connected on six clutch free throws in the last 30 seconds of the game to secure the win, the Mad Ants apparently unaware that Cannady hit 89.6 percent of his free throws in his four-year collegiate career at Princeton, the 10th highest mark in NCAA history.

The 6’2” guard, who went scoreless in the first quarter, turned it on in the second half with his three-point sharpshooting, finishing his G League debut with 23 points, six rebounds, and two assists on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 5-of-9 from three. The Princeton Tiger played a total of 32 minutes in the win.

C.J. Williams, Long Island’s 6’5” veteran wing, scored 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field and 4-of-10 from three in 36 minutes of play. Deng Adel had an impressive game, scoring 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and handing out six assists in the win. The 6’7” Adel shot 7-of-12 from the field and 2-of-4 from three.

Jaylen Hands, after going scoreless in five minutes of play in the first, turned it on in the second half, finishing his G League debut with 17 points, six assists, and two rebounds in 27 minutes of play. Perhaps more importantly, the 6’3” point guard had only four turnovers, a problem during summer league.

The Nets only big man,John Egbunu, was also the only Net to record a double-double in the win with 12 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes of play. Egbunu, in the season opener, showed signs of Alan Williams, who was the Nets double-double machine last season. Jonathan Kasibabu, one of the Nets three local tryouts, recorded 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists in 20 minutes of play.

For Fort Wayne also five players in double-figure scoring. Naz Mitrou-Long, a Pacer two-way, recorded a double-double, leading the team in scoring with 26 points to go along with his 10 rebounds. Mitrou-Long shot 10-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three. Walt Lemon Jr. had a good outing for Fort Wayne, recording 22 points in the loss.

Hasheem Thabeet, the former 2nd overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, had a good outing on the defensive end, swatting four shots to go along with his eight points and six rebounds in 26 minutes of play.

The Nets had a slow start to their season opener. Fort Wayne came out on a 9-0 run, leading Shaun Fein to call an early timeout with 9:54 left in the first. Following the timeout, Long Island began to get in a rhythm from three.

Long Island and Fort Wayne continued to trade baskets throughout the first. The Nets shot a total of 11 three’s, connecting on four of them (48%) in the first. From the field, Long Island shot 13-27 (36%) from the field. Williams led the Nets in first quarter scoring with seven points, followed by Kasibabu with six points. Hands and Cannady were the only starters to go scoreless in the first.

Long Island trailed Fort Wayne 35-30 after one.

The Nets began to turn it on late in the second quarter. Hands beat the halftime buzzer with a deep three, recording his first points, to give Long Island a 61-59 lead.

At half, there were only two Nets in double-digit scoring. Williams led the Nets with 15 points followed by Adel with 13 points. Cannady began to turn it on in the closing minutes of the second, scoring a total of eight points on 3-6 shooting from the field.

Even with the slow start, Long Island managed to shoot 25-of-52 from the field (48 percent) and 9-of-21 from three (43 percent). The Nets recorded 26 total rebounds and 13 assists at the half.

The Nets defense didn’t excel in the first half. The Mad Ants shot 22-of-50 from the field (44 percent) and 9-of-21 from three (43 percent).

The Nets got off to a hot start in the opening minutes of the second half. Cannady connected on two back-to-back three’s to extend Long Island’s lead to five points with 11:12 left in the third.

The Nets began to shoot the three-ball consistently midway through the third and held their lead in the closing minutes of the third. At the end of three, Long Island led Fort Wayne 94-88.

The Nets began to dominate early in the fourth with an 11-0 run in the early minutes, maintaining the strong energy they showed in the third. Long Island held the lead throughout the fourth quarter but Fort Wayne, in the final three minutes, came back.

The Mad Ants went on a scoring run late to cut the Nets lead to single digits but had to foul and Cannady came up big for Long Island in the end.