On Tuesday night, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers entered the Bert Ogden Arena with their backs against the wall as they were one loss away from seeing the Long Island Nets become G League champs. That predicament came after the Nets pulled off a 117-107 Game 1 victory over the Vipers due to the trio of Dzanan Musa, Thomas Wimbush and Jordan McLaughlin all putting up 20+ points. In addition to the impact made by those three players, that defeat was also due to the perimeter-minded Vipers struggling from beyond the arc as they shot just 23% from beyond the arc.
Despite having the pressure on their shoulders as they were down a game in a best-of-three game series, the Vipers seemed more relaxed than stressed in how they played. Rather than trying to force the situation offensively, they did a nice job of pushing the pace and working the ball around. This approach definitely worked as the team was red hot from beyond the arc. On 44 total attempts, the Vipers shot 48% from beyond the arc.
While usual suspects like Dakarai Tucker and Michael Frazier both shot the ball well from beyond the arc, the leader of the team’s perimeter attack was an extremely unlikely candidate: Rockets assignee Isaiah Hartenstein. Heading into the game, it would’ve been nice to call him an inconsistent shooter as the 7-foot prospect shot 27% from beyond the arc on 2.4 attempts per game during the regular season.
However, the Rockets assignee put those past struggles aside as he put up 33 points, 13 rebounds (9 offensive), 2 assists and 2 blocks on 10-14 from field, 8-9 from beyond the arc and 5-8 from the free throw line. Those eight made perimeter jumpers are 47% of the 17 total perimeter looks that Hartenstein made during the regular season.
That prior lack of success from beyond the arc was arguably the biggest factor behind the hot shooting night as Alan Williams, the player that was assigned to guard Hartenstein, stood out in the paint as the German big was nailing perimeter jumpers. That plan stood in place until the 4th quarter when the Nets actually started to respect his perimeter jumper. However, Hartenstein still had success as he nailed a 3 and mid-range jumper while having a hand in his face.
Nailing a copious amount of jumpers wasn’t the only thing that Hartenstein did while standing on the perimeter. As you can see in the clip below, the Rockets assignee throws a brilliant bounce pass to a cutting Michael Frazier, who was able to finish with an underhanded circus shot. Those kinds of passes are common for Hartenstein as the 20-year-old big averaged 3.8 assists, which put him as the best facilitating center in the G League.
His knack as a perimeter shooter and facilitator combined with his tremendous work as an offensive rebounder were the keys behind Hartenstein being the offensive leader of RGV’s tremendous offensive attack in Game 2.
As the Vipers and the rest of the G League world looks forward to the winner-take-all Game 3, it’ll be interesting to see if the German big will be able to match that performance. Although he’s been a fantastic player for the team throughout the season, as the Rockets product finished in the top-5 of G League MVP voting, Hartenstein definitely won’t have the same amount of open perimeter looks as Will Weaver should have the Nets ready to guard him on the perimeter.
Will Hartenstein be able to respond to that and use his distributing skills to get his teammates more involved? We’ll have to see as Isaiah Hartenstein and the RIo Grande Valley Vipers will face the Long Island Nets on the road on Friday, April 12th. The game will tip off 8 PM Eastern/5 PM Pacific and you can watch it on ESPNU.