Coming off of a disappointing loss to the Austin Spurs Tuesday —and elimination from the post-season Wednesday, the Long Island Nets bounced back Thursday taking down the Memphis Hustle -- the Grizzlies G League affiliate -- in an emphatic 111-100 victory. A tight game for the entire afternoon, Long Island never fell into a substantial deficit and came out with the win down the stretch thanks to some great defense and quality shotmaking.
BJ Johnson had a team-high 22 points after missing the previous two games, and the impact of his shotmaking was felt throughout the team. Post-game, I asked coach Bret Brielmaier about Johnson, and how his return helped Long Island:
“You see the kind of caliber of player he is. His ability to space the floor, make plays. And then on the defensive end, great instincts, he really helps us calm things down when we get a little out of sorts. Overall, BJ is a huge part of this group and what he brings as a veteran leader, kind of character person.”
Here are his highlights:
Nets two-way center Reggie Perry kept up his solid play with 16 points and 9 rebounds, as well as some really good defense down the stretch in the fourth quarter. The real story, though, was the bench. Jordan Bowden had 20 points, including 4-for-8 shooting from behind the three point arc and 11 rebounds. He spoke on his big rebounding night postgame:
“My teammates were really doing a great job of boxing their man out and my man wasn’t crashing [the glass for] most of the game, so I was just trying to find those little pockets for easy rebounds. It was my night tonight, and I’ve just gotta continue to do that.”
Here are his highlights:
Other notable bench performances came from Nate Sestina, who finished with 16 points as well as a thunderous finish above the rim, a highlight posted by the G League Twitter account.
Elie Okobo dished out seven assists along with scoring six points, and Brielmaier spoke on his playmaking postgame:
“He’s been wonderful sharing the ball, especially the last few games. I think he’s gotten a little more comfortable in what we’re doing, and that’s really who he needs to be as a point guard and combo guard: a distributor first, and then a scorer when needed. I love to see his growth and him simplifying his game.”
After missing the last game, it appeared Kaiser Gates was ready for the Nets when he suited up in the starting lineup. However, he exited the game after only one minute of action, never to see the court again. Tariq Owens was also once again laid low by an injury. Both were described as “day-to-day” by Brielmaier. I asked him for an update on their situations:
“Tariq [Owens] is still day-to-day, [we’re] trying to see if he can play the last one with us. Kaiser tried to give it a go, just wasn’t quite there yet, but both those guys, their hearts are with this group, their competitive spirit, it’s killing them inside to not be playing, so proud that these guys want to get out here and finish this thing the right way.”
It was a tight game throughout with 11 lead changes and 10 ties. After a quick 7-0 burst by Memphis to open the afternoon, Long Island responded with a run of their own and the Hustle would never be able to pull away by many more all game.
After a Nets-dominated second quarter, the Hustle were able to keep it close at halftime and eventually take over entering the third quarter due to some impressive shot making from deep. Long Island wouldn’t let up so easily though, with the bench unit tying it up with about 8 minutes remaining only for the starters to come and put the nail on the coffin. Ultimately, Long Island pushed their lead to double digits in the closing minutes.
As for the Hustle, Sean McDermott led his team in scoring with 17 points, and Shaq Buchanan added 16. Tyrell Terry, the 31st pick in the 2020 Draft finished with 15.
The Long Island Nets will return to action Saturday, for their last game of the season against the Canton Charge at 11:30 AM ET. Canton is the G League affiliate of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Long Island is now 6-8 with one game to go.