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Slow start sinks LI Nets on championship banner-raising night

Turnovers hurt in 157-132 G League loss to Delaware


Turnover continues to be a theme for this year's Long Island Nets. The raising of last year's G League championship banner quickly flipped to a messy game, with the Nets--employing an entirely new roster--falling behind by 18 and giving away the ball 24 times, leading to 38 Delaware Blue Coats points. It all amounted to a 152-137 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers affiliate at Nassau Coliseum Friday night.

“I wasn’t very happy with the first six minutes of the game,” said Nets head coach Shaun Fein. “I didn’t think we came out with the energy that we needed. I was a little disappointed in that, but the second group came in and gave us some life and got us back in the game.”

It was the turnovers that were the main point of emphasis and concern for Fein and his team.

“It’s something that we talked about pre-game and all week,” said Fein. “We have to value the ball a little bit more. First game, we had 18 turnovers, next game 21 and now 24. We’re trending in the wrong way. We’ve really focused on transition defense, but it’s really hard when you turn over the ball.”

“It’s unacceptable,” said guard C.J. Massinburg. “Even though it’s a lot of possessions and you’re playing fast, you still have to take care of the ball because turnovers equals points on the other end.”

There were some bright spots for the Nets, most notably the play of Massinburg. The University of Buffalo product led his team with a career-high 28 point, shooting 10-for-14 from the floor over 21-plus minutes.

“I thought C.J. was really good tonight,” said Fein. “His effort and compete level was at an all-time high. That’s what I expect out of him. He’s a winner and you want him on the court for every game because he’s going to make a play. He helped us tonight.”

The Nets celebrated last season’s success by raising their 2018-19 Eastern Conference Championship banner in a pre-game ceremony that featured video highlights and messages from members of last year’s squad, including Dzanan Musa and Theo Pinson.

The Nets, an affiliate of the NBA Brooklyn Nets, finished last regular season with a 34-16 record, tops in the Eastern Conference and tied with three teams from the Western Conference for the best overall G League record. They advanced to the finals before falling two games to one the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Friday's game also marked the season debut of Long Island’s two-way players: Henry Ellenson and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, both first-round draft picks in the NBA in 2016 who boast 247 combined games of NBA experience. As two-way players, they shuttle between Long Island and Brooklyn, with a maximum of 45 days with the NBA team.

Both were in Fein’s starting lineup. Ellenson, a center, scored 18 points, including two three-pointer in 30 minutes. Luwawu-Cabarrot, a guard, collected 16 points, shooting 5 of 11 from the field.

“I was happy with them,” said Fein. “It was their first game of the season and it’s the first time playing with these guys together. There’s going to be a little adjustment period to kind of feel out other teammates and how they play. Overall, I’m happy with their effort.”

Luwawu-Cabarrot said, “It’s always good to be out here with the team and with the guys. At the same time, I’m not happy right now. We’re just trying to win and be the best team in the G League. We didn’t do that tonight.”

The Nets (1-2, with both losses at home), welcome the Windy City Bulls to the Coliseumm for a 3 p.m. game Sunday.