GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Drive (29-21) earned their first playoff berth in the franchise’s four years in Grand Rapids on Saturday night at home against the Long Island Nets (27-23), winning 101-99. The loss ends the Nets’ season, as they had two chances to hit the game-winning three within the final five seconds but were unable to connect.
The Drive could potentially have still clinched a playoff berth with a loss going into Saturday’s game, but the Erie BayHawks and Lakeland Magic both won their games before the conclusion of the game at the DeltaPlex, meaning the Drive and Nets both had their playoff hopes entirely resting on this game.
An impressive eight players scored in double figures for the Drive, using a team effort to win the big game. Speedy Smith in particular stepped up for the Drive, scoring a season-high 20 points while also recording seven rebounds and 13 assists. Jon Horford had 11 points and 15 rebounds in just 18 minutes as starting center Landry Nnoko struggled with foul trouble, but Nnoko still had 13 points and nine rebounds.
KJ McDaniels also had 13 points for the Drive, and Reggie Hearn, Jamel Morris and Derek Willis each scored 10. Grand Rapids was able to hang on, as an Isaiah Whitehead layup cut the lead to 100-99 and Smith went 1-for-2 as Long Island fouled, leaving the Nets with the final possession where they missed two three-pointers, one by Whitehead and one by Milton Doyle.
The Brooklyn assignee Whitehead had a huge night for Long Island, scoring 39 points, the most the Drive have allowed to an opposing player the entire season. James Webb added 20 points for the Nets, Doyle scored 14 points and Shannon Scott stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists. But aside from those four, no other Long Island player had more than five points.
Grand Rapids continued its recent dominance of the glass, which was a big factor in the win. They had 56 rebounds, including 21 on the offensive end, while the Nets managed just 37.