Long Island Nets hold off Memphis, reclaim East lead

Long Island Nets Brooklyn Nets Theo Pinson. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images)
Long Island Nets Brooklyn Nets Theo Pinson. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Long Island Nets hung on down the stretch for a 137-132 win over the Memphis Hustle Sunday at Nassau Coliseum and moved back into 1st place in the East.

Theo Pinson drained seven 3-pointers Sunday at Nassau Coliseum and the Long Island Nets made seven of eight free throws in the final 1:21 to hold off the Memphis Hustle for a 137-132 win that moved the Nets back into first place in the NBA G League’s Eastern Conference.

The win was the third straight for Long Island (24-14) and completed a road-home back-to-back sweep after the Nets beat Raptors 905 on the road on Saturday.

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With the Lakeland Magic (25-15) losing Sunday on the road to the Westchester Knicks, Long Island moved back into first place in the East, percentage points ahead of the Magic.

The Nets have 12 games remaining in the regular season and are in a virtual tie with Lakeland, with Raptors 905 (24-16) and the Knicks (25-17) each one game back in what looks to be a wild sprint to the finish for the top seed.

Long Island leads 905 and Westchester by one game in the race for the automatic berth as Atlantic Division champions.

The G League awards playoff spots and the top three seeds in each conference to the three division winners, with three “wild-card” teams then seeded in slots four through six. The top two seeds earn byes into the second round.

The first three rounds are single-elimination before a best-of-3 set for in the Finals.

Long Island got out early against the visiting Hustle (21-18), leading by 10 in the first quarter and opening up a 19-point edge with 1:44 remaining in the first half before Memphis began chipping away in the second half.

After the Hustle got to within eight late in the third quarter, the Nets went up 119-102 with 8:39 to go on a 3-pointer by Okaro White, who was back in the rotation after missing six games with an ankle injury.

The Hustle got it back to five points on a transition 3 by Markel Crawford with 49,4 seconds to go after a steal by Julian Washburn.

Crawford missed a 3 on Memphis’ next possession, however, and White got the rebound with 19.3 seconds left, hitting two free throws to push the lead back to seven.

The Nets shot 50 percent (45-for-90) and hit 18-for-39 (46.2 percent) from 3-point range, outrebounding the Hustle 51-50.

But Memphis had a 26-20 edge in second-chance points and also got 18 points off 17 Long Island turnovers, while the Nets scored 15 on eight Hustle giveaways.

The Hustle shot 46.1 percent (53-for-115) and were 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) from deep.

Pinson, on a two-way contract with the parent Brooklyn Nets, finished with 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting, draining 7-of-12 from deep.

The undrafted rookie from the University of North Carolina is averaging 20.6 points per game in 28 games for Long Island and is hitting 38.7 percent from 3-point range. He also had nine rebounds in 35 minutes Sunday.

Alan Williams, Brooklyn’s other two-way player, went for 17 points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes, going 9-got-10 at the foul line to offset a 4-for-10 shooting day.

The bench provided a lot of production as Jordan McLaughlin had 17 points and eight assists, while White finished with 16 points and two blocks and Tahjere McCall scored 14 points off the bench. The Long Island reserves outscored Memphis’ bench 66-34.

Dzanan Musa, the first-round pick on assignment from Brooklyn, scored 12 points with four rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes, shooting 4-of-11 overall and 1-for-7 from deep.

The loss spoiled a huge effort from Memphis guard Tarik Phillip, who exploded for a career-high 48 points with four blocked shots. Phillip, an undrafted free agent from West Virginia University in 2017, played in Europe last season before coming to the Hustle this year.

His previous career-high had been 28 points in a Jan. 18 loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Sunday was just his fourth game this season with 20 or more points.

Washburn, on a two-way contract with the Hustle’s parent club, the Memphis Grizzlies, finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Memphis’ other two-way player, Yuta Watanabe, had 14 points, seven assists and two blocks. Nino Johnson added six dimes off the bench.

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After three games in the last four days, the Nets will get a couple of days off before hosting the Delaware Blue Coats at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Eastern.