Despite a late comeback, the Long Island Nets lost their third game in a row Friday night, falling 106-98 to the Raptors 905, the G League affiliate team of the Toronto Raptors. The Nets are now 1-4 on the year.
The Nets two guards, Josh Gray and Marcus Zegarowski, both finished with 20 points to lead Long Island.
Friday night marked Gray’s last game with Long Island before playing with the United States in the FIBA Americas qualifying games. Newest Net Isaiah Wright — who was signed from the available player pool to replace Gray — was in attendance, but will not play until Saturday. Long Island head coach Adam Caporn says he’s “really proud” of Gray, and he’s “excited for him to play for Team USA.”
Postgame, Gray commented on his team-first mentality entering his stretch with Team USA: “I just want to embrace, feel all [the] feelings and learn. I’m super excited about them adding Isaiah Thomas, he’s definitely one of the studs in the world, and I think he can teach me a lot of things, and I’m looking forward to getting down to Houston for training camp.”
Gray will likely back up Thomas, the former Celtic All-Star who’s hoping to find his way back to the NBA.
The Nets kept the score close to start the first quarter, but the 905 set the tone early, jumping in a double-digit lead. That push was led by former Long Island and Brooklyn Net Reggie Perry, who had finished the quarter. The Nets trailed 34-20 at the end of the first period of play.
It was more of the same in the next quarter, with Raptors 905 stabilizing their lead despite Long Island’s efforts to mount a comeback. The Nets struggled to string together positive plays, hamstrung by unfortunate forced turnovers and defensive lapses. The second quarter was when Toronto’s G League team caught fire from three as well. Raptors 905 nailed 7-of-14 attempts from behind the arc in the quarter, carrying them to a 66-44 lead at halftime.
Out of the break, the Nets were able to cut into the deceit, but the Raptors 905 maintained a consistent lead. Long Island shaved the 905’s lead down to 14 points for an instant, but it rebounded back to 19 by the end of the quarter.
With time running out, the Nets aimed to mount one last comeback attempt in the final frame. With nine minutes remaining, a Gray double-clutch layup had the point difference at 13, the least since the second quarter. With 4:20 remaining, center Chris Walker missed a free throw worth two points (under G League rules) but Josh Gray made up the two points on a tipped-in second opportunity. Craig Randall then intercepted the ensuing 905 inbound for an And-1, and the lead was down to 10.
Minutes later, the Nets were chipping away once again. A 3-pointer from Randall had the lead down to seven points, the smallest margin since the first quarter. Zegarowski then nailed three free throws on the next possession, and it’s a two-possession game — six points.
But down six points with 16 seconds remaining, Nets draft pick RaiQuan Gray air-balled a 3-pointer several feet behind the arc, and the Nets fate was sealed.
When asked for positive takeaways from the late-game surge, Caporn made sure to highlight two players: “The real positive from the game, for me, was the guard play from Marcus [Zegarowski] and Josh [Gray]. I think Josh is really trying to evolve his game around the rim … I think he’s really working to get his teammates involved, we’re not shooting well, hence his assist numbers are down, but I think he’s making a lot of the right plays, and totally coachable and about the right stuff.”
He added on Zegarowski: “Marcus has had a really good solid. He’s rolling and the team’s going to keep growing.”
Gray and Zegarowksi led Long Island with a team-high 20 points. Gray added seven rebounds and four assists while Zegarowksi pulled down six rebounds of his own.
Jordan Bowden scored 14 points and grabbed five boards, while Brandon Rachal chipped in on the defensive end. The undrafted 6’6” rookie out of Tulsa blocked five shots and grabbed 13 rebounds — 10 of them offensive — on top of his eight points.
Caporn put it simply: “He’s a warrior. He’s had a great season … and he really is the anchor of our defense with his physicality, we really need more guys to play like that on the defensive end.”
Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe and Kessler Edwards were all with the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. David Duke Jr. is still out with right hip flexor soreness.
Ahead of Brooklyn’s game, however, coach Steve Nash alluded to Brooklyn’s rookies potentially playing with Long Island in Saturday’s rematch with the Raptors 905.
Full quote from Steve Nash on Cam Thomas and the rookies since there was some confusion surrounding that quote: pic.twitter.com/n2jqC1hQAE— Matt Brooks (@MattBrooksNBA) November 19, 2021
As for the 905, Toronto draftee David Johnson led the way with a team-high 22 points. Johnson was drafted 47th to the Raptors in June and is on a Two-Way contract. Isaac Bonga made his presence felt with a 13 point, 14 rebound double double, and former Net Reggie Perry added 15 points and 10 rebounds of his own.
Here are the game highlights:
Long Island will take on Raptors 905 again on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum. The rematch is set for 7 p.m. ET and will be streamed on NBAGLeague.com as well as the YES App. How is Caporn feeling about the opportunity to play the same team again?
“[I’m] really happy we get to play tomorrow, for sure, because I’m so disappointed in our first half. [I] really want to have the opportunity to show that for 48 minutes we can play right, play together, and play tough.”