No, you’re not seeing double.
For the second time in three days, the Long Island Nets were unable to generate enough defensive stops down the stretch against the Greensboro Swarm, resulting in a 111-103 loss in a matinee game Sunday.
Despite Craig Randall II — who was coming off back-to-back 40-point performances — hitting three 3-pointers in the final 1:54 of game-time, each of increasing difficulty, the Nets were unable to string together the requisite stops to emerge with a win.
Postgame, Long Island head coach Adam Caporn says “it feels terrible” that the Nets were unable to get over the hump with the clock winding down, even with their offense churning.
“[So] frustrating, it’s on the coaching staff though, can’t blame the playing group [since] we’re all in it together. We just did not execute some very simple coverages, switching pick-and-rolls,” he continued.
On Friday evening, the Nets lost 119-114 to Greensboro. Caporn described that game was the “worst [the Nets] have been all year” at containing the ball, including both defensive rotations and on-ball focus.
Caporn called correcting those issues the “key to the game” heading into Sunday’s rematch, noting it as the the focus of their short practice on Saturday.
Once the ball was tipped, though, Long Island’s limited practice time showed. Defensive slip-ups were still prevalent, though not as frequent.
“Not what we wanted, [but] better,” Caporn commented. “I thought it was pretty good the first half, much better. [But] we had a stretch late in the third quarter where they just came in for some easy layups.”
Josh Gray, who led the Nets with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists, says the key to Long Island improving on defense lies in the work done between games.
“Just break down film,” Gray, the team’s veteran leader, says. “Let’s see the errors, let’s see where our shortcomings [are], and let’s see where as a team, collectively, we have to get better.”
Not all of these errors fall on Long Island’s roster, though. The team’s make-up is one that thrives with multiple ball-handlers on the floor at once, often sacrificing size on the defensive end of a multi-faceted attack on the other side of the floor.
“We can definitely get stagnant and just dribble the ball too much. We are not great at just playing together right now,” Caporn says.
“When you’re playing with multiple ball-carriers, you want the ball to be moving, causing close-outs, multiple decision-makers. That’s why when we dribble too much and don’t move it, it’s not a good way to play. It’s like trying to play bully-ball when you’re smaller.”
Gray, being one of those such “ball-carriers,” said he doesn’t approach games with a your-turn-my-turn mentality. “I go into every game with the same mentality; just being aggressive. I feel like if I’m not aggressive I’m letting my teammates down … my biggest thing is getting into the paint and making my teammates better.”
After starting the regular season with back-to-back 40-point outings, Long Island forward Craig Randall II posted 22 points, four rebounds and six assists in 41 minutes on Sunday.
— Long Island Nets (@LongIslandNets) January 9, 2022
Being a fellow local tryout player (Gray joined the Suns’ G League affiliate in 2016), the veteran said he shared his advice with Randall: “the thing I’ve been telling Craig is just ‘stay the course, keep going, don’t ever feeling like you’re being too aggressive, don’t ever feel like you’re being selfish. Make your mark on this league and just keep going.’”
Moving forward, Gray’s message to the team is clear: “Just stay locked in. It’s a new year, they cleared the records, and we’re just trying to get to playoffs and accumulate [a] good style of play over the course of games and try to get as many wins as we can.”
The Nets will travel to Mississauga, Ontario to take on division-mate Raptors 905, the G League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors on Monday, January 9th. The game will air at NBAGLeague.com at tip off at 7:30pm ET.