The Long Island Nets completed the 2022-23 regular season Saturday night and although they lost, 135-116, to Rio Grande Valley Vipers in Edinburg, Texas, they finished with the best record in the G League’s Eastern Conference, 23-9, and top seed in the playoffs. They will open their post-season run against an opponent yet to be determined at noon Friday afternoon in the friendly confines of Nassau Coliseum. As top seed, Long Island earned a bye in the first round.
On a less positive note. the Nets wound up losing six of their last seven games after winning 16 straight in February and early March.
Long Island was without its two two-ways, David Duke Jr. and Dru Smith, who were in Florida with Brooklyn, as well as starter RaiQuan Gray, Saturday in the loss. Still, they kept it close till late in the game, led by G League veteran wing, Kaiser Gates.
Starting off strong with KG for 3 pic.twitter.com/1DsDzQcW6o— Long Island Nets (@LongIslandNets) March 26, 2023
The Nets took control in the first three minutes of the opening quarter jumping out to a 10-point lead, 14-4 at the 9:27 mark. The Vipers, Houston’s G League affiliate, quickly turned things around going on a 12-2 run and tied the game 16-16 with 7:26 left.
The back-and-forth battle began in earnest after that with the lead exchanged 10 times in the first two quarters. But neither team could fully pull away and the score was tied at 38 at the end of the first.
The Nets went into the second quarter hot and began to pull away. With 6:03 to go, Long Island had a 57-47 advantage over the Vipers. Long Island continued pressing the lead until the Vipers came from behind and tied the game 69-69 with just 40.3 seconds to go in the half. At halftime, the visitors had a 71-69 advantage for the visiting team.
RGV which needed a win to make the post-season opened up the third quarter with a 7-0 run. The game continued to go back and forth until a Viper 12-0 run that set the score at 88-74 with less than seven minutes to go in the third. The Vipers continued to dominate the quarter and sent the game into the fourth with a 104-93 lead. The Vipers dominated late and earned the team a playoff spot.
For the Nets, who had clinched the top seed two nights earlier, Kaiser Gates put up 25 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including four 3-pointers. Trey McGowens, a 6’3” guard who joined Long Island late in the season, also broke the 20-point barrier with 20 points while Jordan Bowden and Alondes Williams, stalwarts throughout the season, finished with 19 and 16, respectively. Without the 6’8” Gray, the Nets were outrebounded 50-40 for the game.
Houston Rockets assignment TyTy Washington Jr. led the Vipers with 35 points. Rockets two-ways Darius Days and Trevor Hudgins scored 24 and 23 points, respectively. Jalen Lecque scored 14 points from off the bench.