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Brooklyn Nets defeat Toronto Raptors, 99-94, in OT on Jalen Wilson putback

Barring the unexpected, a third consecutive win in Vegas sent the young Nets to the Las Vegas Summer League Playoffs

2023 NBA Summer League - Brooklyn Nets v Toronto Raptors Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Summer League edition of the Brooklyn Nets entered their Thursday matchup with the Toronto Raptors looking to accomplish a feat that the big-league club hasn’t accomplished in two decades: making the summer semifinals. And they did.

After dropping their first contest in Vegas, the Nets secured two blowout victories in their next two games, each margin of victory holding great importance with point differential being a tiebreaker. And with just three undefeated Summer League squads remaining, the Nets entered their face-off with Toronto knowing that at least one single-loss team would make the playoffs. They were determined that it would be them.

Brooklyn took a 14-point lead into halftime, 48-34, on the strength of solid three-point shooting (10-24) from just about everybody who touched the floor. Their two 2023 draft picks, Jalen Wilson and Noah Clowney, each cashed in two of their three long-range attempts, including some particularly impressive makes:

Elsewhere, James Madison product Matt Lewis and Armoni Brooks, who has already earned NBA stints with the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors thanks to his marksmanship, each had two 3-point makes in the first half.

The Nets were certainly fortunate to be facing a Raptors squad, already 0-3 this summer, missing their two best offensive players and prospect in lottery pick Gradey Dick and March Madness hero (and native New Yorker) Markquis Nowell. Toronto’s first-half, offensive ineptitude was largely the result of a 3-of-13 performance from deep.

The third quarter was much more of an offensive showcase, specifically for Toronto, who nearly doubled their point total in half the time, cutting Brooklyn’s lead to 71-64 entering the fourth quarter. They were ultimately led by a couple of Big Ten products in Joe Wieskamp (Iowa), a sharpshooter who finished the contest with 18 points, and Ron Harper Jr. (Rutgers), who finished with 19.

Toronto’s fun continued into the fourth quarter, as they turned a boring blowout in the Thomas & Mack Center into a nail-biter down the stretch. Familiar face Moses Brown, who signed a couple of 10-day contracts with Brooklyn last season, threw down a dunk to give his Raptors their first lead of the day at 74-73.

Perhaps the Nets wouldn’t have been condemned to sweat this one out given better guard play. Kennedy Chandler shot an ugly 6-of-22 from the field and just 3-of-8 from the line; David Duke Jr. wasn’t much better, shooting 3-of-15 and adding four more turnovers after six in his last game.

The back-and-forth affair came down to the final fifteen seconds of regulation where, tied at 91, the Nets had a chance to win the game with the shot-clock off. The result? A less-than-ideal possession featuring a near-Hail Mary from Lewis that missed wide left:

Overtime at Summer League features an Elam ending — first to seven points in an untimed extra period wins the game. After a poor second half where Brooklyn squandered all of their 17-point lead, they pulled it together in the streetball-style OT to win 99-94, clinching a potential Summer League playoff berth, fittingly on a putback by Jalen Wilson off a Chandler miss.

It’s Vegas. Put your money on No. 22 in black.

“In long games you got to make hustle plays, you got to make the plays that not a lot of people want to do,” Wilson said post-game.

Wilson put up another strong performance in his fourth Summer League outing: 17 points (including the game-winner), seven boards, and two 3-point makes — he is now 9-of-18 from deep in Vegas, correcting a weakness that hurt his draft chances and dropped him to No. 51 where the Nets took him.

In an off-camera interview with Roz Gold-Unwude of ESPN, Sean Marks said his draft room was “ecstatic” to get the Kansas product, calling him a “winner,” adding “His IQ is off the charts.” The Nets GM also said he could foresee Wilson, signed to a two-way contract, getting minutes with Brooklyn.

Chandler, for all his misgivings, made three of his final five attempts, the one that led to the winning Wilson putback. The University of Tennessee product never stopped attacking the paint (even though he probably should have.) Final line: 15/8/3 with four steals.

Noah Clowney, Brooklyn’s first-round pick, likely had his best performance of Summer League despite shooting just 2-of-9 from the floor. That included a 2-of-6 performance from deep to go with three blocks, his areas of focus as a 3-and-D big (hopefully):

To some extent, Brooklyn is likely just happy the game is over and everybody is healthy. While the point totals were high, especially after an unassuming first half, much of that was due to 74 combined free-throws between the two teams, including a hefty 47 for the Raptors. The Nets ran a no-big lineup for much of the second half, and had trouble grabbing boards and protecting the rim without fouling. They committed 36 fouls and made just 35 shots.

But a win is a win, and they’ll likely be headed for playoffs at Las Vegas Summer League, finishing the “regular season” with a 3-1 record and a +40 point differential. Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers each have a 2-1 record with a +19 differential. They’re Brooklyn’s only semi-serious threats. One of those squads would have to achieve a monstrous win in their final game to knock Brooklyn out of the playoffs.

But even if such a thing were to happen, given Wilson’s excellent Summer League showing and noticeable improvement from Clowney in just a week’s time, the Nets’ trip to Vegas has already been a success — a playoff appearance would merely be a cherry on top.