G League Ignite put on a confident display to dispatch the Jeremy Lin-led Santa Cruz Warriors, 109-104.
The G League Ignite team have been diligently working the past number of months. Preparing themselves for competitive prime time games in the Orlando G League bubble. February 10 was the day when Head Coach Brian Shaw and Co. could finally show the world what his team of elite prospects and seasoned veterans could do.
Led by Jarrett Jack, who had 23 points on 90% shooting, Ignite at times looked very comfortable against a solid Santa Cruz Warriors team. Rookie Jonathan Kuminga scored 19 points, whilst converting 9-18 from the field.
“I wasn’t impressed because I see it everyday in practice. It’s what I expect, it’s what I see everyday,” Coach Shaw told reporters via Zoom post-game. “He does a lot of things for us, he’s a very talented player. You guys are just seeing the beginning of what he can do.”
Ignite started the game slowly but worked their way into the contest. Brandon Ashley, who had 17 points (7-12 FG), provided a flurry of key buckets. Kuminga was clearly up for the challenge and looked like a seasoned veteran as he bullied his way to the rim throughout.
The young small forward looked confident throughout and played with a sense of calm, allowing the game to come to him. Kuminga’s 4 assists added an extra wrinkle to his game that makes him an even more tantalizing prospect. Even more so if these high-level performances continue.
However, consensus top-3 pick Jalen Green struggled from the jump and had a poor first-half. One that included poor shooting, numerous turnovers, and passing up good opportunities in order to find better ones.
Guarding the young prospect was clearly a point of emphasis for Santa Cruz. As they threw numerous assignments at Green in order to restrict his involvement.
“I thought he was trying too hard, which is natural. Everybody’s gunning for him because of the attention that he’s gotten,” Shaw said. “I just want him to have fun and play the game. He’s competitive and he’ll figure it out. I fully expect for him to bounce back from today’s game.”
The Warriors opened the second quarter on a 12-0 run, which Ignite answered with an 11-0 run of their own. Ignite then pulled away from Santa Cruz and went into the locker room with a 15-point lead at the half, 65-50.
In the second half, Green was able to enforce his will more and got into the flow of the game. Highlighted by a dunk on a bounce pass from fellow elite prospect Kuminga.
Green finished the game with a respectable 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. The young prospect more than likely won’t be happy with his output. But he certainly flashed his immense potential at times.
While Jarrett Jack was the best guard on the floor tonight, it was Daishen Nix who flashed lottery pick level talent throughout the contest. In what was a well-rounded performance from the Alaskan prospect.
Nix showed his basketball IQ and craftiness with some well-timed passes and hesitations that gave him an easy route to the basket repeatedly. His passing prowess was there for all to see. Even in limited minutes (19), Nix raised the game of every player on his team. This was through his intelligent play, screens, and movement off-ball.
Nix’s ability to see over the top of the defense was pivotal, constantly opting to make the right play. The Trinity International alum finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal.
Brian Shaw was full of praise for rookie Nix in a post-game media availability, “Pairing him with Jarrett, I do that intentionally so that Jarrett can talk him through situations when they’re out there on the floor. They can play off one another.”
“Daishen just makes winning plays. What he does out there on the floor, I recognize it. It’s a lot of the intangible things. He’s just going to get better and better.”
Ignite led by as many as 20 points in the second half before a spirited effort from Santa Cruz made the game probably closer than it should have been.
Dusty Hannahs hit back-to-back threes with five minutes to go, to cut the lead to 8. The lead did shrink down to as much as 3, but a pair of deep twos from Jack sealed the win for the G League Ignite. The victory was further emphasized by a huge Kuminga block with mere seconds remaining.
“I love the fight that we showed the second half, especially in the fourth quarter,” Santa Cruz Head Coach Kris Weems said post-game. “We put together 3-4 stops at a time, and then we picked up energy. As that was happening, it carried over to the offensive end.”
Veteran Jeremy Lin finished the contest with 18 points for the Warriors, along with 5 assists. Guard Nico Mannion had 17 points and 6 assists, while assignment player Jordan Poole led the team with 22 points and 3 assists.
Coach Weems told reporters his thoughts on the performances of back-court-duo, Poole and Mannion, “Obviously, they scored the ball pretty well, but the efficiency wasn’t there. 13-for-40, that’s not going to get it done.”
“We talked about being more efficient as scorers and playmakers. They had 9 assists between them so that’s good. But we just got to have more efficient play, better shot selection, and of course, they got to continue to fight on the defensive end.”
Mannion, who’s a two-way rookie assignment for Santa Cruz, addressed the media post-game to speak about his performance, “It feels good to just play again. This is really my first full game since, I think, March 12th, so, of course there’s going to be bumps, first time playing. But, I take accountability for how I played.”
“I think I could be a lot better, I should be a lot better. We got down in the middle of the second quarter. Then we were just kind of battling uphill from then. We made a little push at the end, but I think all-around we’ll figure it out.”
Both teams are back in action on Friday, with G League Ignite set to face the Oklahoma City Blue at 3pm ET on ESPNU. Santa Cruz will take on the Delaware Blue Coats at 7pm ET on ESPN2.
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