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Long Island Nets handidly defeat Maine Celtics, 118-108

Wisconsin Herd v Long Island Nets Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

It always looks a whole lot better when the shots are falling.

The Long Island Nets defeated the Maine Celtics, the G League affiliate of the Boston Celtics, by a score of 118-108 Monday night. Long Island improves to 3-4 on the young G League season, looking to defend the Coliseum with multiple home games ahead of them.

Reigning NBA G League Player Of The Week Craig Randall II led the way for Long Island, tallying 34 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 46 minutes.

More impressive than his ever-growing point totals — Randall ranks tenth in the G League in points per game — Long Island Head Coach Adam Caporn says, is the leadership he is showing.

“Obviously playing very well, but his voice is growing … one of the things you hope for as a coach is when you call a play, they waive it off. Because they’ve got a better idea, and Craig is doing that.” He continued: “He’s a competitive, edgy guy so he has ups and downs, and I just think he’s much more level-headed across the game through mistakes.”

Randall is quick to point out he’ll still make a play for others though, even when his own number is called: “I mean that just comes in certain points in the game, when you know you’re feeling it, you’ve got stuff going. I mean for me, I could’ve made that call for me and then still gotten someone else a good shot.

High minutes were a theme of Monday’s matchup, with guards Bryce Brown and Jordan Crawford each seeing the court for 40 or more minutes as well.

Post-game, Caporn admitted there is some concern behind the heavy workload of his players.

“Yeah, we’re worried about it, but it is what it is. We’ve got a day off, we’ll get as fresh as we can, we’ll get some guys back, and we’ve got a good performance team and we’ll do the best we can,” he says. “I think we’ve set ourselves up well through this fatigue and adversity.”

Randall, on the other hand, isn’t concerned — and will even go as far as to compare himself to a star Brooklyn Net: “Nah, I’m good,” he guard says. “When I get out there, I don’t really think about it. I think KD said something like ‘let me die out there,’ I’ve got that mindset too. I’m good out there.”

With RaiQuan Gray still out in health and safety protocols, and newcomers to the injury report Josh Gray (shoulder) and Brandon Rachal (Concussion Protocol), the Nets found themselves shorthanded on Monday afternoon.

With only eight players available, Brooklyn’s G League squad looked to their bench — made up of three new players — to step up to the challenge.

Jordan Crawford, Wayne Blackshear and Talib Zanna had all been signed in recent weeks, and were the only Nets available off the bench tonight.

Crawford, a well-traveled veteran who seems to have seen it all, brought an extra scoring punch to the Nets with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. Postgame, Caporn praised his newer player:

“Jordan, great performance. Can only imagine how tired he is. But his experience, sense of calm, he’s fitting in now, he’s grown in his confidence to keep guys playing, just talk to Bryce … that’s one of — I think — his great benefits in helping us. We know he’s a great scorer, I mean, some of those baskets he made today [were] NBA talent.”

Talib Zanna scored eight points and added 11 rebounds, six of them coming on the offensive end. He gave the Nets “great minutes,” per Caporn, and “brings us a mobile, athletic big” while center Chris Walker is out with a right knee fracture..

Blackshear answered the call to the tune of 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting, with all but one of those attempts coming from behind the 3-point arc.

“Wayne brings us a shooting, versatile big. [like] most of our bigs, his three-point shooting is really strong,” Caporn said of his shooter, who nailed four triples against Maine.

Blackshear stepped in for Justin Jackson, Long Island’s starting power forward who went down shortly into the first quarter. As of postgame, the extent of his injury was not yet known.

Crawford, Blackshear, and Zanna all have extensive pro experience, something both themselves and Caporn are aware of.

“With those [new] guys, we make fewer communication errors defensively. You’ve got to earn that experience, and a lot of our younger guys are still figuring that out,” the coach says.

Randall, who’s emerged as the team’s star the Nets called up their draft picks, was equally complimentary: “They were great. Obviously, they had to play big minutes tonight because we were down guys,” that the team-high scorer. “All three of them stepped up big, so that’s huge for our team, just to know that we’ve got guys who can come in and make an immediate impact, so that’s big for us.”

The Nets face the Fort Wayne Mad Ants back at home on Wednesday at 7pm. The game will air on ESPN+.