The Long Island Nets entered Friday night’s rematch with the Cleveland Charge with one goal: sweep the Cavaliers G League affiliate on their home floor after coming away with a win in the first matchup Wednesday.
And sweep they did, dressed in Sponge Bob-themed jerseys. Long Island extended their winning streak to four games, the longest of the G League season, and now sit firmly in the playoff picture at 8-6.
Yes, Sponge Bob themed! As in Sponge Bob Square Pants.
The Nets, working with a tourist agency from Taiwan, even provided the first 1,000 (of 2,312) fans with SpongeBob t-shirts.
On to the game.
The Nets got off to another hot start against Cleveland fueled by elite long range scoring. Long Island’s backcourt duo of Craig Randall II and David Duke Jr. hit a pair of triples apiece in the opening quarter, with five total in the period for Long Island. The Nets closed the first quarter up 29-23.
Long Island pushed their lead to double-digits and beyond in the second quarter, but a 10-0 run by the Charge mid-way through the period tied the ball-game. At half, Long Island led 54-52.
The third quarter was characterized by a Randall II explosion. As the explosive guard has done so many times before, he unleashed a flurry of 3 pointers; four in the period.
The Charge kept it close however, even jumping out to a brief two-point lead. A subsequent solo 5-0 run by new Long Island acquisition Ty Wallace, a 6’5” point guard with 106 NBA games on his resume’, put the Nets back in control entering the fourth, 89-86.
A Charge make from deep had Long Island’s lead down to three points with 45 seconds remaining. Randall drove to the basket and got stripped of the ball on his way up. The Charge scored on the ensuing possession and then intentionally fouled Treveon Graham. Graham was only able to hit one extra shot and a Charge layup had both teams locked at 110 with nine second remaining.
Long Island drew up a pick-and-roll for Randall, who had an open look at a three. Randall’s three hit back iron, unfortunately, and the Nets and Charge headed to overtime. Long Island was without David Duke for the extra period, as he fouled out in regulation.
In OT, Cleveland struck first, and the Nets weren’t able to get any scoring punches in until 12 seconds left when Wallace drove to the basket and the Charge were whistled for a foul. Cleveland challenged the call, but it was unsuccessful. Wallace’s two foul shots rimmed in.
Then, it was Cleveland’s opportunity to emerge victorious, tied at 112, with 12.0 seconds remaining. Charge guard Malik Newman’s game-winning attempt was blocked by Wallace, and the Nets and Charge were due for a second overtime period.
Thon Maker somehow won the jump ball over the 7’7” Tacko Fall to kick off the second overtime , and then held his own down low as the dominant inside presence. Wallace scored downhill, aided by a Maker screen, giving Long Island a two-point lead. The Nets then sent Fall to the free throw line, where he was only able to convert one on free opportunity.
With the shot clock winding down, a Wallace-Maker pick-and-roll ended with Maker drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key, his first of the night.
The deep ball gave Long Island a 4-point lead, the largest of either team in the OT periods, and the Nets rode to their big win after some Cleveland intentional fouls.
Randall had yet another stellar performance against the Charge, notching a game-high 34 points, five rebounds and six assists in 46 minutes. It was the 12th time in 14 games that the 25-year-old from UT-Martin has broken the 20 point barrier and the fourth time he’s broken 30.
Long Island relied on Randall heavily down the stretch, and Nets head coach Adam Caporn noted postgame how valuable he has become for the team.
“He’s just hard not to love. He plays defense, he’s passing the ball really well — 8 assists, one turnover last game, 6-to-3 here today — he makes other guys feel good, he’s a good versatile player,” said Caporn. “Craig brings a combination of two things I think are really special: hyper-competitive, and a really good learner. He just got better and better and better, and not everyone is like that. I thought he was even better tonight running the team than he was [Wednesday.]”
Forward Wallace recorded an NBA G League season-high 30 points, four rebounds and three assists, while shooting 11-of-15 from the field and 3-of-5 from distance in 35 minutes off the bench. Wallace last played in the NBA with the Hawks two years ago.
“Can’t understate [how big he was],” Caporn said. “Steady influence, calm as can be, big strong point guard, very lucky to have him. He’s an NBA player. We would not win that game without him. We knew he was very good, it’s great to see him getting back to playing some good basketball so quickly.”
Two-way guard David Duke Jr. added 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes before fouling out in the fourth quarter. He’s now scored 50 points in his last two games.
The Nets now head on the road for their longest trip away all season. They will take on the Motor City Cruise Saturday night at 7 p.m.
- Game Report: Long Island Nets 118, Cleveland Charge 112 (2OT) - G League
- How Long Island Nets star Craig Randall played himself from G League walk-on onto the NBA radar - Mark W. Sanchez - New York Post Sports+