Long Island Nets get a quick turnaround with Windy City Bulls in Sunday matinee
Nets eye playoffs as season's final stretch begins
The Long Island Nets will tip off with the Windy City Bulls at 3 p.m. on Sunday, a quick rematch in a relatively unusual back-to-back set at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
It's part of a stretch of four games in seven days for the Nets, made up of a pair of two-game sets. They'll play the Westchester Knicks on Tuesday and Thursday, although that will be a home-and-home set for the local rivals.
The Nets dropped Friday night's game against Windy City despite outscoring the Bulls by 32 points over a stretch of roughly 20 minutes in the second and third quarters. That run erased a 25-point deficit but didn't create enough cushion to overcome Windy City's fourth-quarter resurgence.
"When you win the game, you have to think about what the team is going to do to try to attack what helped you win," said Long Island coach Ronald Nored of the quick turnaround. "When you lose the game, which is the position that we're in, two things you have to look at: No. 1 did we do what we were supposed to do well. And if we did, what do we need to adjust. I don't think we get to No. 2 based on how we played yesterday. We didn't do what we needed to do well to even think about how we need to adjust. We just have to be better ourselves."
BRING BACK THE DEFENSE
The 129 points Windy City scored on Friday night were the most Long Island has given up this season, dramatic off night for one of the G League's top defensive teams.
The Nets are second in the league in defensive rating (100.3) and third in the league in opponent field goal percentage (44.3). But Chicago took a 21-point lead with a 32-point first quarter and finished things off with 45 in the fourth.
"I just thought yesterday we weren't very disciplined," said Nored. "They gave us trouble on the offensive glass. They beat us up there. They gave us trouble in transition. And then the last thing, they gave us trouble driving us. Offensively, I thought we moved the ball well for the most part. When we made a run we were able to get out in transition and get easy baskets. We're going to have to do that again (Sunday) to have a chance."
WEBB CONNECTS FROM 3
Two-way contract player James Webb III spent much of February with the Brooklyn Nets before returning to the G League on Feb. 21. In the five games since his return he's averaging 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 43.2 percent from 3-point range and 94.7 percent from the free throw line. On Friday night he made 6-of-7 3-point attempts and scored 22 points.
The Nets wrap up the regular season on March 24, giving them three weeks and nine games to secure a playoff spot. They're currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, holding on to one of the three wild card spots. Three division winners and the three next best records make up each conference's six-team playoff field.
Long Island is 1.5 games out of the fourth spot and 1.5 games ahead of the sixth spot.
"It's not anywhere close to being over," said Nored. "We've got to play well these last nine games to have a chance."
Windy City's Antonio Blakeney is the G League's leading scorer (33.0 ppg), and on Friday night put up 41 points against the Nets, shooting 15-of-25 and 4-of-9 from 3-point range. The 6-foot-4 guard also snagged 11 rebounds. He had 25 points in the second half.
"We've got to find the right people to defend him," said Nored. "That comes with our pick and roll defense, that comes with our individual defense. I thought we did a pretty good job on him to start the third quarter. We're not the first team that he's had 40 on. The thing that we can't do is overreact to having a good game. Because he's done it all year. He's really good. So we've got to make everything tough. I've told the guys, take away his rhythm and contest his shot. And if we do that through the course of the game and he scores 30, there's nothing else we can do.
"The focus really has to be on the other guys too. We let some of their other guys get going, Alex Hamilton, Jarrell Eddie, even Tyler Harris on the offensive glass. We've got to limit those guys, because those are the guys that take them from being just a guy that can really score to a team that can really produce."