The sporadic, yet entertaining Summer League Nets will not be renewed for another episode. After falling to the Cavaliers in the league semis, 102-99, in overtime Sunday, Brooklyn’s Vegas run reached its end. The Nets finish 3-2 while the Cavaliers head to the Summer League championship game Monday night vs. the Rockets.
The first period saw Brooklyn and Cleveland each enjoy brief but impactful runs. The Cavs ripped through the Nets with an early 9-0 stretch to take a double digit lead. Sam Merrill hit an and-one triple to give Cleveland an eight point lead. Merrill hit the shot as Noah Clowney barreled into him. Whether leading to open cutting lanes or fouls like on this occasion, aggressive blitzes by Brooklyn’s defense have been an issue for the team all summer.
The Nets punched back however, going on a 7-0 run to push any inklings of a blowout out of mind . The Nets pulled that stunt several times during the course of the game. Standouts Armoni Brooks and David Duke Jr. were largely responsible for the timely burst early. Duke led the Nets with six points after the first quarter with Brooks adding five himself.
The Cavs took a 26-21 lead into the second period, helped by a loud two points from Isaiah Mobley just a few possessions before the horn. On a give-and-go play, he snuck past Raiquan Gray and then posterized Jordan Hall to provide arguably the game’s best play.
High school standout Emoni Bates got the party started in the second quarter, hitting a pair of early triples to extend Cleveland’s lead further. But the Nets returned fire. Some tough makes from Brooks and Jalen Wilson allowed them to stay in stride with the Cavs.
At 45-45, the Nets and Cavs deadlocked at the half. While Cleveland led for most of the second period, Kennedy Chandler hit the bucket to draw even with just over a second to go. Chandler sliced toward the cylinder after creating some space. He met resistance and even lost the rock for moment before gathering it and sneaking in a shot off the glass, once again illustrating his talent for improvisation at the offensive end.
Two straight buckets from RaiQuan Gray permitted the Nets to seize a small lead in the third. But this time, Cleveland charged back. A healthy portion of second chance points and open looks from three served allowed the Cavs to once again stretch out a double digit lead in the third frame.
Merrill’s deadeye shooting returned in the fourth, hitting two fast break triples after a brief run by Brooklyn to tighten the gap. The Nets had been playing fantastic transition defense up until that point, but those bombs from Merrill undoubtedly took some wind out of their sails.
But then, you guessed it, the Nets bounced back again. Jalen Wilson looked like a man possessed on the offensive glass in the fourth and it worked to Brooklyn’s advantage. After a missed triple from Gray, he gathered the rock and then floated it over Cleveland’s defense to make it a 82-76 game with 3:34 to play.
Armoni Brooks then went coast-to-coast for a tough bucket. He tacked on another point after Mobley was charged with a fake flop technical foul. But Mobley and Cleveland did not roll over as Brooklyn applied the pressure. The former Trojan came back with an immediate answer, slicing down the baseline for a quick bucket.
The back-and-forth continued as Matt Lewis hit an and-one triple just a few plays later to tie the game. Emoni Bates ventured too far into his grill on the release and Lewis buried the shot and subsequent free throw.
Matt Lewis again!! A huge four-point play cuts it to one! pic.twitter.com/eSBMX4zTNG— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) July 16, 2023
It was impressive make given the state of the game, but Brooks silenced any early celebrations from Cleveland. After both teams traded quick buckets, Brooks hit a deep triple from coming around the wing and over Merrill to tie the game. Gray then locked up Craig Porter in the final possession of regulation to force overtime.
Armoni Brooks ties it with a ridiculous shot! What is happening!! pic.twitter.com/1JjpzGH9Pd— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) July 16, 2023
Two tip-ins from the Cavs got them OT’s first two points, which is much bigger deal in Elam endings, where the first team to seven points wins the game. With the Nets going scoreless during Cleveland’s 6-0 run, the Cavs jumped up to a 100-92 lead, needing just one point to win the game.
Time for Cleveland to coast to victory? Wrong. Time for one more punch back effort from the Nets? Yes.
With some tough defensive stops coming between each play, the Nets battled back into contention after some Wilson free throws and another heavily contested three from Brooks that found the bottom of the net.
Armoni Brooks is unreal -- it's officially next bucket wins!! pic.twitter.com/gaoot4ac59— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) July 16, 2023
But unfortunately, the Nets were unable to get that one final stop. Even with Gray smothering him on defense, Mobley flicked the ball up and after bouncing twice around the cylinder fell into the basket, winning the game for Cleveland and sending them to the tournament final.
Post-game, Nets Summer League head coach and Brooklyn assistant, Trevor Hendry, had this to say to his team...
“We’re family. We’re family.”— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) July 17, 2023
On Location… Coming soon pic.twitter.com/p4xS7DzY4S
Mobley led the game with 23 points while also tacking on five assists, seven rebounds, and two blocks. He worked as a hub for Cleveland’s offense for the entire afternoon, making him a fitting candidate to silence the resilient Nets once and for all.
Brooks and Wilson resembled a two-headed monster for Brooklyn once again, each adding 22 points. Brooks shot 5-9 from downtown and corralled three boards. It was the third time in five games that the former Raptor and Rocket has hit five threes. Wilson came up with 11 rebounds, five of which came at the offensive end. He also finished with four assists.
There was this added “stat” as well from Wilson the player and Wilson the brand…
.@thejalenwilson partnered with Wilson to support local YMCAs in Brooklyn, pledging $100 for each point and $50 for each assist during Summer League.— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) July 17, 2023
In total, $9,450 will be donated pic.twitter.com/WRM5v89aD1
While not his best game especially from an offensive standpoint, David Duke Jr. had his fingerprints all over this one for the Nets. He came up with 10 points, six rebounds, and two assists. His ability to get downhill with ease did well to set up Brooklyn’s shooters with high percentage looks. Duke Jr. did not play at the end of regulation or in overtime.
The same can be said for Chandler, who finished with seven assists to go with his 11 points, but shot only 5-of-16, including 1-of-6 from deep. Matt Lewis finished with 14 points and three rebounds, hitting 3-of-4 beyond the arc. Gray had 12 points, nine rebounds, and three assists.
Noah Clowney, however, had another tough run, not scoring in seven minutes of action. Clowney, who turned 19 on Friday, picked up four fouls in rapid succession and unlike Summer League pool play, the limit is six in the finals and semi-finals. He did grab two rebounds and block a shot.
First, the Nets will have to sort out their two-ways. The front office saw the Summer League as an audition. Wilson already has one of the three spots sealed up. Gray was signed to a two-year two-way at the end of last season, but two-ways are not guaranteed. Teams can sign up to three two-ways.
That out of the way, now begins what’s seen by most as the driest time of the year for NBA fans and the Nets. With most free agents having already found new homes, the draft, and the summer league over, there’s not much basketball to go around.
But other than that, it’s really just a waiting game that lies ahead. For Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, the FIBA World Cup will be their next time on the court, starting at the end of August. As for the NBA, no date has been announced yet, but training camps typically open in late September. To quote Green Day, feel free to wake me up then.
For another perspective, turn to Fear the Sword, our SB Nation counterpart who covers the Cavaliers.
The Nets did officially just sign Darius Bazley, the 6’9” big who played last for the Suns. The contract is one year at the vets minimum, but is not guaranteed.
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- Game Highlights: Cleveland Cavaliers 102, Brooklyn Nets 99 (Video) - NBA
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- Highlights: Armoni Brooks vs. Cavs (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Highlights: Jalen Wilson vs. Cavs (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Highlights: RaiQuan Gray vs. Cavs (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
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