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Long Island Nets win eighth straight, move into first in East with G League’s top record

Long Island Nets vs Motor City Cruise Photo by Luther Schlaifer/NBAE via Getty Images

The Long Island Nets have the best record in the G League.

After beating the Motor City Cruise Saturday, they extended their winning streak to eight and are now 14-3, best in the league. They were led by the Nets’ two two-ways, David Duke Jr. and Dru Smith who scored 50 points between them. The Nets went 10-8 in the G League’s Showcase competition in 2022, then took off when regular season began.

Final score from Nassau Coliseum: Long Island 123, Motor City Cruise 121.

The streak was rewarded in another way by the league this week. On Friday, Ronnie Burrell, their rookie head coach, was named the league coach of the month. His boss, rookie Long Island GM J.R. Holden, told NetsDaily that Burrell, who grew up in New Jersey then played overseas for 12 years, has been a calming influence for the young Nets. With the Long Island roster often a hodge podge of Brooklyn’s young players, two-ways and G League veterans trying to get a shot, that steadiness is a job requirement.

“Ronnie’s phenomenal,” said Holden Thursday. “Because he’s played. he understands players, he understands the ebbs and flows of the game and the ebbs and flows of players’ mentality.

“And he’s been super calm. There have been times when I’ve been super excited and he’s been ‘I’ve got it. we’re good.’ So he has a calmness and a steadiness to his leadership but he’s also not afraid to be confrontational. That’s very important for a player to understand that whether you’re a roster guy with Brooklyn or the 10th guy on the Long Island Nets team, Ronnie’s going to treat you the same, hold you to the same standard.”

Duke Jr. led the way for Long Island Saturday with 26 points while shooting 9-of-16 overall, including 2-of-5 from three. Duke also recorded two rebounds, three assists and two steals in 36 minutes. Brooklyn’s other two-way, Dru Smith, had his biggest game since replacing Alondes Williams two weeks ago. He notched 24 points, two rebounds, four assists and one steal in 30 minutes. He also shot 6-of-7 from deep. Smith has yet to play for Brooklyn.

Long Island guard Jordan Bowden recorded 23 points, four rebounds, one assist and one block in 32 minutes while Kessler Edwards, assigned to Long Island not long before the game, posted 12 points, one rebound and one assist in 29 minutes. Long Island’s starting center, RaiQuan Gray, finished with 12 points and six rebounds while Chris Chiozza once again posted a triple-double with 11 points and 12 assists.

Long Island got off to a speedy start against the Cruise, shooting 56% (14-of-25) from the field and 50% (4-of-8) from long range. The Nets closed the first period ahead by five, 34-29. Motor City battled back in the second quarter, outscoring the Nets 33-26 in the quarter to take the lead overall. The Cruise went into halftime ahead by two, 62-60.

Long Island tried to close the gap in the third, but Motor City got the best of the Nets offensively. The Cruise outscored the Nets 30-28 and went into the final period ahead by four, 92-88. Long Island’s offense came together in the fourth, outscoring Motor City 35-29 in the quarter. With a little less than a minute left, the Cruise were down five, 123-118, but trying for a late run. Motor City’s Keifer Sykes hit a three to close the gap to two points with 31 seconds left, but Long Island held on to win.

Long Island shot 56.6% (47-of-83) shooting from the field and 51.5 percent (17-of-33) shooting from deep. In addition to Smith and Duke’s solid shooting from beyond the arc, Edwards, Bowden and Chiozza all hit 40% or better from outside.

Motor City was led by guard Sykes, who tallied 31 points, two rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 40 minutes. Cruise guard David Nwaba, the former Net, recorded a double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four assists in 35 minutes.

Long Island will face Sioux Falls at home on Tuesday, at 7:00 p.m. ET.