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Long Island Nets lose to Delaware Blue Coats, 108-94, in G League semi-finals despite comeback

The Long Island Nets season was historic but it ended Sunday with a loss in Eastern Conference championships.

2023 NBA G League Eastern Conference Finals - Delaware Blue Coats v Long Island Nets Photo by Mary Kate Ridgway/NBAE via Getty Images

The Long Island Nets season is over.

The G League affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets lost to the Delaware Blue Coats, the 76ers affiliate, 108-94, Sunday night in the G League’s Eastern Conference Finals at Nassau Coliseum. The loss prevented the Nets from making the G League Finals for the first time since 2019.

The Nets who went down by as many as 25 points came back to within one point, 95-94, with 4:23 left, but the Blue Coats scored the last 13 points of the game to get the win. They’ll face the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets affiliates in the Finals.

Nets 6’7” forward Kaiser Gates posted 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds one block in 36 minutes to lead Long Island. Alondes Williams, the 6’4” guard, notched 17 points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in 28 minutes and was key to the come back. David Duke Jr., Brooklyn’s two-way guard scored 15 points in 33 minutes, while the franchise’s other two-way, Dru Smith, tallied 14 points in 33 minutes.

Long Island, the East’s top seed, and Delaware, the second seed, went back-and-forth in the first quarter until consecutive shots by the Blue Coats put them over the Nets. Delaware closed the period ahead by eight, 30-22. The Nets battled hard in the second quarter, but they could not get shots to fall. The Blue Coats went into halftime ahead by 11, 56-45.

Delaware maintained its defensive effort in the third quarter, outrebounding the Nets 15-10 and with 7:03 left in the third, it looked like the Blue Coats were on their way to a blowout, leading 77-52. That’s when Long Island’s final rally of the season began. The Nets closed the period down by 15, 83-68. Long Island erased all but one point of the Blue Coats lead in the final quarter, but they could not finish.

The Nets were badly outrebounded by the Blue Coats, 57-37, and while Gates, Williams and Duke Jr. shot 13-of-24 on the night, including 10-of-17 from deep, three other Long Island stalwarts struggled. RaiQuan Gray, Chris Chiozza and Jordan Bowden wound up a combined 12-of-49.

Delaware guard Jaden Springer, drafted between Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe in the 2021 NBA Draft, tallied 21 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks and one assist in 40 minutes. Blue Coats forward Louis King recorded 20 points, five rebounds, three rebounds and three steals in 34 minutes.

The Nets dominated the G League regular season, winning 16 straight at one point, but at the season’s end, they lost six of their last seven. Still, they wound up with the East’s best record, 23-9 and Ronnie Burrell won G League coach of the year and J.R. Holden finished second in executive of the year balloting. Duke Jr. averaged 22.9 points for the regular season, fifth best in the league, along with 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.9 steals, good for 10th in the G League.

Chiozza who had hoped to add a G League ring to the NBA ring he won last year with the Warriors, was a steadying influence on the young Nets, averaging 12.6 for the season. He also finished sixth in assists and ninth in steals. Smith, signed as a two-way in mid season, finished with averages of 15, 5 and 5 while finishing eighth in steals. Williams, who had struggled early in the season and lost his two-way contract in favor or Smith, came on late and finished strong.

The Nets will have to make a decision on both Duke Jr. and Smith by June 29 when they are eligible for qualifying offers.