A historic season for the Long Island Nets came to a bitter end Friday.
Much like their professional counterparts in Brooklyn, the G League affiliate based out of Long Island exceeded expectations this year. For Brooklyn, that meant a trip to the playoffs, beginning with a first-round matchup against the 76ers on Saturday. For Long Island, that was an G League finals appearance, its first in three years of existence.
But for all of the “firsts” Long Island achieved this winter, another first will have to wait — a championship. The Nets fell to Rio Grande, the Houston Rockets’ affiliate, 129-112, in Game 3 at Stony Brook’s Island Federal Credit Union Arena on Friday night. Long Island never held a lead in the contest.
Long Island was 34-16 in the regular season and three more in the playoffs, the most wins in franchise history. The Nets finished in third place in the Atlantic at 27-23 last year and fifth place at 17-33 two years ago.
Long Island shot 38.5 percent, including 16.7 percent (7-for-42) on three-pointers, compared with Rio Grande shooting 48.5 percent, including 42.1 percent (16-for-38) from deep.
The Nets couldn't keep up with Rio Grande's pace and struggled on the defensive side the majority of the game, allowing 75 points in the first half, including 38 in the opening quarter. The Long Island offense generated open looks early offensively, but shot just 32.8 percent from the field and 19 percent (4-for-21) from beyond the arc in the first half. Rio Grande led 75-47 at halftime and 103-74 after three quarters.
“Our offense wasn’t good enough to keep them out of transition," Nets coach Will Weaver said. "From turnovers to missed shots and blown assignments. But those assignments are really hard when they come at you fast with that group”
Alan Williams led the Nets with 26 points and 21 rebounds and Dzanan Musa added 24 points and six rebounds for Long Island.
“The result obviously wasn’t a championship," Williams said, "but to make it through what we made it through and to have an opportunity to play for a championship shows our resiliency and how much we really care for each other”
The Nets, playing their two final home games at Stony Brook as opposed to its home court, NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, because of scheduling conflicts, won Game 1, 112-99, Sunday before dropping Game 2, 127-116, on the road Tuesday. The Islanders hosting Game 2 of the opening round of the NHL playoffs forced the Nets to play at Stony Brook on Friday.
Even though Long Island's season didn’t end with a G League championship, it still had plenty of high points. In making their first postseason in team history, the Nets also won their division and earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Weaver was named the G League Coach of the Year and Trajan Langdon was named G League Executive of the Year this season.
“They know that they want to be the guys hooting and hollering and celebrating right now," Weaver said, "but they also know that there’s 25 other teams that wished they were in this gym and they earned their right to say they were one of the best teams in the league this year.”
Williams said: "It's been truly special. I enjoyed my time on the Island and it surprised me. Going into it, I had no idea what Long Island was and leaving now after the season, I can say all of us have a lot of love for the area. I love Long Island and will always love Long Island and we went out and played for them tonight. Just sorry we couldn't get it done."