The Long Island Nets will be as tough a test as the 905 have seen all season. They’ve won 13-of-14 to close the season, and they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference. If Jordan Loyd doesn’t win G-League MVP, then the Nets’ two-way Theo Pinson very well could. He’s a gigantic guard who has no weaknesses at the G-League level. He’s an elite shooter off the catch and bounce, and he has great body control around the rim. Pinson is averaging 20.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game, while shooting 38.7 percent from deep. He’s young and has a clear NBA future.
However, Pinson is far from the Nets’ only weapon. They’ve been the highest scoring team in the G-League, and it’s because of the variety of their attack. Two-way Alan Williams is a solid scorer from the big position, and he’s been one of the best rebounders in the G-League. He is undersized and 6-foot-8, but he has 60-70 pounds on Chris Boucher. Jama Mahlalela could opt to start Derek Cooke Jr. or MiKyle McIntosh alongside Boucher to guard Williams, but if Williams and Boucher matchup, it will be a fascinating battle. Williams has great touch around the rim, and if he uses his size to put Boucher under the rim, the 905 are in trouble. Likewise, Boucher’s length could allow him to finish over Williams on one end and block everything on the other.
Dzanan Musa is an attack-first guard who’s happiest with a head of steam towards the rim. He’s comfortable finishing around or over opponents with either hand, and he’s got size. He uses long strides to create space, and he could drive Boucher out of position on the defensive end. However, Boucher finished with 11 blocks in the first round against the Grand Rapids Drive, so my best is that Musa may find some trouble finishing around the rim. He’s not an elite athlete, but he’s a long range bomber as well. He took 6.4 attempts per game and shot 35.5 percent, so his distance shooting will offer important oxygen to the Nets.
The 905 won a grinding, low-scoring game in their first round against the Grand Rapids Drive. It was a terrific performance from coach Jama Mahlalela, and you can read my feature on him here. The overtime win was keyed by the 905’s trio of stars: Boucher, Loyd, and Malcolm Miller. Boucher notched a triple double with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 (!) blocks. He didn’t shoot well, but dang he did everything else well. Loyd likewise had a poor shooting night, but he won every imaginable loose ball, and he was the team’s most focussed defender. He finished with 18 points, 14 (!) rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. Malcolm Miller was the team’s most efficient offensive weapon, scoring 16 points including 4-for-9 shooting from deep.
The 905 and Nets have battled four times already this season, and Long Island won the series 3-1. In two early Nets wins, Pinson decisively won his battle against Loyd, holding him to a combined 7-for-24 shooting. When the 905 won in late January, Loyd and Boucher combined for 46 points on efficient shooting, as Pinson was held to 5-for-17 shooting. The final game, in late February, was the best of the four, and it saw all four two-ways (Loyd, Boucher, Pinson, Williams) play well. This game should be dictated by the teams’ best players, who in all likelihood will see plenty of possessions guarding opposite the others.
The game is 7 pm ET in Long Island, which is a huge disadvantage for the Canadian squad. The 905 have not been a fantastic road team, finishing only 13-12 during the regular season. The Nets finished 19-6 at home. The 905 will have a difficult test, but no matter the result, it will be fantastic playoff practice for everyone on the 905 roster.