UPDATE: The Blue Coats lost the championship, 97-78.
One hurdle stood between the Delaware Blue Coats and a G League championship: Thursday’s final game against the Lakeland Magic.
The Blue Coats move dinto their first championship game after playing a fast-and-furious shortened season at the Disney Bubble in Orlando, Florida.
They beat the top-seeded Raptors 905 in a 127-100 game Tuesday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to earn the right to play the 6th-seeded Magic, who beat them during the regular season, 115-107.
The Blue Coats, the NBA G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, played Thursday at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
“I think the guys are in a really good place,” said Delaware head coach Connor Johnson heading into the game. “They’re proud of where they’ve gotten to, but I think there is still a bit of hunger about going to get one more.”
The Blue Coats have been able to redeem themselves after being beaten in the middle of the season by Toronto, he said.
“Now, we have one chance to get the most important one at the end,” he said. “We said there were three games we wanted to win in the playoffs – two down, one to go.”
Delaware did most of its offensive damage from long range, as it canned 19 three-pointers including five from rookie Braxton Key en route to the lopsided victory over the Raptors, who had routed the Blue Coats, 138-107 during regular season action. Key, who had 21 points, finished 7-of-8 from the field, with seven rebounds, three assists and one steal in only 19 minutes of action off the Delaware bench.
Key, a rookie out of the University of Virginia, was one of five Blue Coats in double figures, with 76er two-way contract player Paul Reed leading the way with a game-high-tying 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting which included three 3-pointers. Reed added 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks for the Blue Coats.
Isaiah Joe, on assignment from the 76ers, made five three-pointers and finished with 24 points. Joe added five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“It’s just basketball – one day up, one day down. It goes that quick,” said Key of the Blue Coats’ season. “We just learn how to battle through adversity. We lost a couple of games and that adversity was tough, but we made a couple of adjustments defensively. We got back to the basics of what we do as a team.
“Everything hasn’t been a blowout like tonight (Tuesday), but we have to give a lot of credit to our coaches.”
The backcourt tandem of Justin Robinson and Rayjon Tucker had 18 and 14 points, respectively, Tuesday. Robinson also added a career-high 14 assists to finish with a double-double. Delaware dished out 36 assists which was a team-high for the season.
Defense also shined, with 17 steals for the Blue Coats, another season-high. Delaware, the G League leader in steals at 11.3 per game, had at least 10 steals in its 15 regular season outings.
“I think our defense really carried us,” Johnson said about Tuesday’s game. “Everyone showed a level of toughness, of being able to guard your man one-on-one and a level of togetherness. That was helpful for us to play well. We’re definitely excited to play (today). Lakeland is really been playing well to get to this point.”
The Lakeland Magic, the NBA G League affiliate of the Orlando Magic, posted wins over the No. 3 Erie BayHawks and the No. 2 Santa Cruz Warriors to reach today’s championship game.
Lakeland head coach Stan Heath expected a tough contest against the Blue Coats this afternoon.
“We’re going to be ready to play,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a better job. It’s going to be a tough game.”