For the Long Island Nets, it’s simple at this stage of the game: win (twice) and you’re in.
With two games left in the NBA G League season on Thursday night, Nets players and coaches were keeping track of various scores from around the league, but they knew this much — they still controlled their own destiny.
Entering Thursday night’s matchup with the Raptors 905, the Nets sat in seventh place in the G League’s Eastern Conference standings with a 17-14 record. But since the two teams ahead of them, the Grand Rapids Gold and the College Park Skyhawks play each other for their final two matchups (and the Nets hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Grand Rapids) Long Island is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs if they win out.
And ultimately, that’s just what they did.
Despite Raptors 905’s relentless energy and shotmaking, the Nets matched them each and every time down the court throughout the night, showing out for the Nassau Coliseum crowd on Fan Appreciation night (which attracted 3,137 to the venerable arena.) Long Island came away the win, 114-99, and are now one victory away from the franchise’s second-ever postseason berth and first since 2019.
Raptors 905 struck first but the Nets responded early, holding a lead for much of the first quarter. The Raptors kept it close, and Long Island ultimately led 26-25.
Enduring some free throw struggles, the Nets extended their lead in the second period of play. Long Island forced 905 misses and secured rebounds, a point of emphasis for head coach Adam Caporn pre-game. Off misses, the Nets pushed the ball in transition and were able to take advantage of a backpedaling Raptors defense for scores and trips to the free throw line. Long Island led 58-47.
Long Island’s lead stuck around 10 points for most of the third quarter, until a late 9-0 run from 905 cut the deficit to as few as two points. A Ty Wallace three gave the Nets a five-point cushion heading into the final 12 minutes of home action, though.
In the fourth quarter, however, the Nets were not going to be denied. With four and a half minutes remaining, a Treveon Graham three-pointer gave Long Island an 18-point lead, their largest of the evening. The Raptors pushed back, but another Graham three with 90 seconds left was the dagger.
Day’Ron Sharpe had yet another dominating performance for Long Island, totaling 15 points and 14 rebounds, six boards coming on the offensive end. Sharpe has fit into his role well in Long Island as of late, and noted postgame, “That’s who I am. Every night, I’m going to get you at least 4, 5 offensive rebounds per game.”
Ty Wallace was huge for Long Island in his return to the team after two 10-day contracts with the New Orleans Pelicans. With Wallace and Craig Randall both away from the team for a stretch of games, the Nets players struggled to adjust to a new style of offense on the fly. It finally clicked Tuesday night against Windy City, but Long Island was able to return to its pick-and-roll roots with Wallace back. Wallace was good for 20 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists Thursday night, looking like his old self. Randall, who’s been dealing with personal issues, did not play.
David Duke Jr. continues to rebound after a minor ankle injury, notching 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in another assertive effort.
The Nets now control their own destiny. If they win Friday night vs. Capital City in Washington, D.C., they clinch a postseason spot with a record of 19-14. Although it’s mathematically impossible for Long Island to finish in the fifth seed, they would be sixth in such a scenario.
If the Nets lose Friday, they will be relegated to scoreboard watching. In order to advance to the postseason, the College Park Skyhawks would need to beat the Grand Rapids Gold in their final two games — the first of which is Friday night — AND the Westchester Knicks would need to lose to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Saturday night, the final night of regular season G League games.
Friday’s game will tip-off at 7 p.m. and air on NBAGLeague.com. If they win, they’re in.