Rio Grande Valley Vipers’ Perimeter Shooting
In the first two games of the G League Finals, the Vipers offense was definitely a land of contrasts, especially when it came to perimeter shooting. In their Game 1 loss to Long Island, the Vipers went ice cold from beyond the arc as they shot 23% on 47 attempts. Fortunately, the fate changed in the following as a surprise shooting output from Isaiah Hartenstein pushed the team to 48% on a total of 44 attempts from beyond the three-point line.
As the team looks to a decisive Game 3, success from beyond the arc is going to be imperative that averaged a league-best 40.4 attempts per 100 possessions during the regular season. While it’s unlikely that Hartenstein will be able to match his Game 2 performance, the perimeter efficiency from players like Michael Frazier and Dakarai Tucker could mark the difference between whether or not the Vipers become G League champions.
Isaiah Hartenstein’s Ability to Adapt
As we mentioned in a Wednesday piece, Isaiah Hartenstein just balled out in Game 2 of the G League Finals by putting up 33 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks on 10-14 from the field, 8-9 from 3 and 5-8 from the free throw line. That perimeter success was largely due to how the Nets just left him with all kinds of room for the majority of the game. It was only until the 4th quarter of the game where Nets big Alan Williams started to get out on the perimeter and forced Hartenstein to either take contested shots, try to beat him off the dribble or work the ball to one of his teammates.
In Game 3, it’s very likely that the Nets will be more serious about guarding Hartenstein on the perimeter. WIth that predicament, Hartenstein will have to simply have to go back to taking an approach centered around working the pick-and-roll and attacking the offensive glass. Sure, that arsenal allowed him to finish 3rd in the G League MVP voting but will he be able to be as effective in those areas while working against Alan Williams? That’ll be interesting to see.
Alan Williams‘ Inside Dominance
Whether it’s the regular season or the playoffs, Alan Williams has staked his claim as arguably the most dangerous rebounder in the G league. That claim is backed up by the simple fact that the last time he pulled down less than 10 rebounds in a full game (played the final 7 minutes of a game against the BayHawks from a suspended January 19th game on March 13th) was a March 4th game against the Canton Charge where he had 8 boards.
Since then, Williams has been an unstoppable force that has averaged 14.4 rebounds per game in the 10 regular season/playoff games since that Match matchup against the Canton Charge. While he’s been inefficient from the field in the two Finals games, his aggression on the offensive glass has pushed him to make numerous trips to the free throw line. That fact was most evident in Game 1 as he took 18 free throw attempts in which he made 11.
In addition to his amazing play on the offensive glass, Williams has been a dominant force on the defensive end as he blocked a total of eight blocks in the team’s two FInals games. That’s a significant change from how he was in the regular season where he averaged .9 blocks per game during the regular season.
If Williams is able to retain his two-way inside dominance in Game 3 against Isaiah Hartenstein and the Vipers, the Nets’ chances of winning the G League Finals improves tremendously.
Gary Payton II’s efficiency concerns
In his third season as a pro, Gary Payton II took a huge step in the right direction as he stood as one of the better all-around games in the league. In 26 games with the RGV Vipers, he put up 16 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 3 steals per game on 47% from the field.
While those base stats have mostly persisted in the playoffs, as he’s averaging 16 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4.2 steals, Payton’s overall efficiency as a scorer has taken a downward spiral. In the four playoff games, he’s only shooting 35% from the field and maintaining a dreadfully low 41% True Shooting Percentage.
Although he’s been able to counteract that through playing great defense, That inefficiency is still a concern for the Vipers. That’s due to the simple fact that it’s always a detriment to have an extremely inefficient player on a team that’s fighting for a title.
Payton will need to find ways to overcome that inefficiency in Game 3 as every single possession will matter in a game that will decide who becomes the next G League champion.
After the Timberwolves signed Mitch Creek to a 10-day deal on March 30th, the Long Island Nets entered an Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Lakeland Magic shorthanded. Fortunately for the Nets, 2nd year forward Thomas Wimbush immediately jumped in Creek’s role as one of the team’s starting forwards. In that game against Lakeland, he pushed the team to victory over the course of the game as he put up 28 points and 12 rebounds on 12-21 from the field and 4-9 from beyond the arc in 34 minutes.
That solid play continued into the Finals where he put up 23 points and 6 rebounds on 64% from field in Game 1 and 21 points and 5 rebounds on 57% from the field in Game 2. That efficient offense includes him being a consistent perimeter threat as he’s hit five of the nine attempts from beyond the arc.
While Long Island has a deep team with a handful of players that can contribute on a game-in-game-out basis, Wimbush has been a consistent force in the three games since he’s become a starter. So while two-way players Theo Pinson and Alan Williams rightfully get a lot of attention from the Vipers due to their play in earlier playoff games and during the regular season, the play of Thomas Wimbush will be a huge factor behind whether the Nets end Friday night as G League champs.