The Long Island Nets are just one game away from making the G League Finals in their first ever playoff appearance. The Nets will have to defeat one of their Eastern Conference rivals, the Lakeland Magic, who are the two seed, to get to the finals. The game will be played at Nassau Coliseum.
Where to Follow the Game
The game will be broadcast only on ESPN U at 7 p.m. ET
The Nets and the Magic have played each other three times this season. Lakeland went 2-1 in the season series against the top-seeded Nets. The most recent meeting between the two Eastern Conference powerhouses was on February 11 and the Magic took that game 112-109.
Both teams were awarded a first-round bye in the playoffs. In the Semifinals, the Nets defeated Raptors 905, who were a four seed, while the Magic defeated the Westchester Knicks, who were the three seed.
Now in the Eastern Conference Finals, the top two teams in the East will have another win-or-go-home game. The winner advances to the best-of-three G League Finals to face either the Santa Cruz Warriors, who are a two-seed, or the Rio Grande Vipers, who are the top-seed in the Western Conference. The Vipers and the Nets shared the best regular season record in the NBA G League this season.
Players to Watch
Long Island will not have one of their key players for the Eastern Conference Finals. Mitch Creek, who recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets in the Semifinals against Raptors 905, signed a 10-day contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday. Creek is one of the most physical and all-around players on the Nets and his absence will be noticed in the Eastern Conference Finals.
With no Creek for Long Island, Kamari Murphy is expected to replace the Australian forward in the starting lineup. Murphy had a good outing against 905 scoring eight points, nine rebounds, and two assists to go along with a highlight reel block. He is a two-year veteran of the Nets.
Murphy has a similar play style on the offensive end. He is a traditional power forward who can shoot the three-ball ... if he is left wide open. Murphy shot the three-ball at 25 percent during the regular season. Murphy also makes a big impact down low. Like Creek, Murphy does play some bully-ball in the post and can shoot the mid-range pretty well. We can expect to see Murphy get extended minutes against the Magic with Creek in Minnesota.
As usual, the Nets success will depend on their two two-ways and Dzanan Musa.
Both Nets two-way players have had good outings against Lakeland this season. In the three meetings against Lakeland, Theo Pinson has been able to score from anywhere on the floor. The Magic have been loose this season with Pinson firing from behind the arc. The Nets two-way guard shot 38.7 percent from three averaging 8.1 attempts per game. Other than his play behind the arc, Pinson is an elite G League driver. He does a solid job making space in the air and looking for contact. Nets need Pinson to have a big game for the Nets to reach the Finals.
Alan Williams, the Nets two-way center, will need to have a good game as well in order for the Nets to take down the Magic. Big Sauce has had good outings against the Magic this season. He will be matched up against Lakeland’s two-way center Amile Jefferson, who got the best of him in the first meeting. Williams will have an excited battle down low with Jefferson. The Nets will need to dominate the boards. Jefferson is one of the most consistent rebounders in the G League and Lakeland did a good job throughout the season connecting on second chance scoring opportunities. Williams will also play a big role in this game, especially on the defensive end.
Dzanan Musa has played well against the Magic this season on the offensive end, scoring 47 points in the two games he played vs. the Magic affiliate. Like Pinson, Musa has shot a lot of three’s against Lakeland this season, but not consistently. Musa is a great transition driver, and Long Island will need him to connect on those opportunities. One area of his offensive play that commonly gets overlooked is his passing. He is an elite passer who has great court vision.
One advantage the Nets will have is Pinson and Musa’s big game history. Pinson won the NCAA title in 2017 with North Carolina and Musa led his team to three straight Croatian league titles and before that, the FIBA Europe U16 championship.
For Lakeland, Jefferson will be the Nets biggest concern on both ends of the floor. Jefferson is a double-double threat like Williams. Good thing for Long Island is that Jefferson is a traditional center, who rarely shoots from behind the arc. Weaver will likely have Williams and Murphy guard the Magic’s big man throughout the game. Jefferson had a big game against the Knicks in the Semifinal round recording 21 points and nine rebounds. 13 of those 21 points were scored in the second half.
Gabe York is another player to watch on Lakeland. York is a crafty guard who is dangerous inside the arc. He can shoot off the dribble or drive to the basket looking for the foul. An interesting matchup for York will be when he faces Jordan McLaughlin. McLaughlin is a great defensive guard for Long Island off the bench and is expected to give York a run for his money. The former USC guard’s tight defense will be a necessity when guarding York. The Magic guard has a rough outing against the Knicks scoring only eight points.
Long Island will also need to control B.J. Johnson and John Petrucelli, especially behind the arc, They are consistent three point shooters who can catch fire quickly. Johnson, who recently completed a 10-day deal with the Atlanta Hawks, had a great game against the Knicks scoring 20 points which included four three’s. Petrucelli had a good game as well for Lakeland in the Semifinals scoring 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, and three steals. The two forwards shot a combined 6-for-12 from behind the arc against the Knicks.
Long Island Nets: Theo Pinson, Tahjere McCall, Dzanan Musa, Kamari Murphy, and Alan Williams
Lakeland Magic: Troy Caupain, Gabe York, John Petrucelli, BJ Johnson, and Amile Jefferson