Final: Windy City Bulls 103, Long Island Nets 96
Tight game slips away from Nets in final minutes
From a double-digit lead in the opening minutes to a slim advantage in the final minutes, the Long Island Nets had opportunity in front of them but couldn't hold on in dropping a 103-96 final to the Windy City Bulls at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
Tied at 88 with under five minutes to go, the Nets (23-19) were outscored 15-8 to the finish.
"The biggest thing is we needed stops," said head coach Ronald Nored. "I thought there at the end there were a lot of plays where we had the lead, where on the defensive end we made a bonehead play. Lost (Jarrell) Eddie in transition, fouled (Ryan) Arcidiacano, we left C.J. Fair in the corner end of the shot clock. When you're in the position that we're in, call it what it is, we're pushing to make the playoffs, you just can't make those mistakes."
Once the Bulls (20-22) cut into Long Island's early lead, there was no margin greater than five points for either team until Windy City's final two scores in the last 16 seconds.
Trailing 74-71 going into the fourth, the Nets pulled ahead as Jeremy Senglin heated up. The sparkplug guard scores at big rates coming off the bench - a per-36 average of 20.2 points - but was 0-for-5 from 3-point range and 1-for-6 overall through three quarters.
The first one that dropped, a three from above the break on the left side, banked in off the glass, and Senglin showed his relief.
"I was just putting my hands up, like finally, one dropped," said Senglin, who finished with 15 points, 10 in the fourth quarter. "A couple were going in and out and that one banked in, so I'll take it."
He followed with a layup that rolled in to indicate a true change of fortune. After Kendall Gray scored twice inside, Senglin drove for a basket to tie the game at 85, then knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer from the right corner.
"He was good," said Nored. "What he started to do, earlier he was finding guys when he was able to drive the ball, finding guys for dump downs and layups. When he's in attack mode, he's hard to stop, he's hard to keep in front when he's making shots. He ran to the corner right in front of our bench, hit a big corner three to take the lead to three. Took him a while to get going, but there is never a time when we tell him not to shoot."
Kamari Murphy stepped in from there, finishing two pick-and-rolls on assists from Milton Doyle, then making 1-of-2 from the line after another pick and roll to tie the game at 96 with 50.7 seconds remaining. Murphy finished with team highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds.
But Windy City's Alex Hamilton banked in a spinning drive to give Windy City the lead for the last time. Hamilton finished with 18 points and Jarrell Eddie had 23 as the Bulls managed without the G League's leading scorer, Antonio Blakeney, who had put up 41 against the Nets on Friday night. But Blakeney was ejected late in the first quarter after drawing two technicals after being fouled by Isaiah Whitehead on a transition drive to the hoop.
"They have good players on the other end," said Nored. "Those guys stepped up and make plays. Alex Hamilton has had the best three days I've seen him have in the G League. He's been really good. He stepped up and made plays and those guys did what they had to do."
Nored had stressed defense after Windy City put up 129 points on Friday, and the Nets came out strongly, blitzing pick and rolls, closing off passing lanes and contesting shots. Three 3-pointers in the first six minutes had them up 15-2.
"I thought we came out and played with great energy and togetherness on defense," said Nored. "I think it was like 15-2 to start the game. I thought the guys were really engaged. And then we gave up two transition threes. One to Blakeney, one to Eddie. They had scored before that, but that cut the lead to like four, and then we lost our way a little bit."