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After four straight losses and a 23-point deficit, Long Island Nets win, clinch top seed

Long Island Nets v Lakeland Magic Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/NBAE via Getty Images

Worries over.

After losing four straight and going down by 23 to the Lakeland Magic Tuesday night, the Long Island Nets, led by David Duke Jr., came back and not only broke their losing streak but clinched the top seed in the East. Final score: Long Island 118, Lakeland Magic 112.

Long Island seemed jinxed after winning 16 straight and having their rookie head coach, Ronnie Burrell, twice win Coach of the Month. With their lead over the second place Delaware Blue Coats shrinking, Tuesday’s game was close to a must-win for the Nets ... and they did.

So, Long Island will get a bye in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals that start next Tuesday, then open in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at Nassau Coliseum on March 30 or 31. Conference Finals will take place on April 2 and if they get that far, the G League Finals (best of three) will take place April 4, 6 and 9. Long Island was last in the G League Finals back in 2019 when they lost to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

All of that seemed a bit dubious when the Nets went down, 71-50, at halftime. But Duke, Chris Chiozza and RaiQuan Gray decided it was time to end the doubt, the worries of their loyal Long Island fans.

By the end of the third, the Lakeland lead had shrunk to 93-89 following a 39-22 burst and with 9:12 left in the fourth, Long Island took the lead, 96-95, building on it till game’s end.

Duke had probably his best game in the G League, finishing with 30 points, shooting 11-of-19 overall including 4-of-6 from deep. The Providence product also recorded seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block...

Six other Nets also finished in double figures. Gray, Long Island’s undersized center, had 18 points and six rebounds while Chiozza recorded 14 points and seven assists.

In an interview before the game with Christian Arnold of amNY, Burrell said a lot of his success is due to his simply watching Jacque Vaughn.

“I really really watch him closely because he’s just a super high-level coach,” Burrell said of Vaughn. “Everyone knows that he’s not in the position he’s in by accident. Very knowledgeable, excellent communicator, taking so many things from him. Learn from him and yeah we communicate as often or not often as you’d expect two coaches to be doing during the season. But when I see him, we always talk to each other and I can’t say enough about how much he’s helped me and what I’ve learned from that guy.”

Meanwhile, Duke Jr. offered his congratulations to his college coach, Ed Cooley, who’s moving from the Providence Friars to the Georgetown Hoyas...

Long Island has two regular season games left, Thursday against Lakeland and Saturday vs. the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. As Duke Jr, tweeted post-game, “Job ain’t done!”