The first week of the NBA G League bubble in Disney World, Orlando has drawn to a close. For the G League Ignite, it was going to be interesting to see how they fared in their first competitive game as a team.
On February 2, ahead of the bubble season, Ignite Head Coach Brian Shaw gave his initial assessment for the newly formed team.
“Our team, for the most part, obviously we want to try to win anytime we step on the floor,” Shaw said. “But it’s not really about wins and losses for us. It’s about the development of our young guys.”
After a week in which the Ignite team went 3-0. It begs the question, why not both?
Game 1, Vs Santa Cruz Warriors:
A 108-104 victory over the Jeremy Lin-led Santa Cruz Warriors greeted the young Ignite team in the inaugural game of the 2021 G League bubble.
Ignite’s elite youngsters combined for 44 points. The winning effort was steered by Jonathan Kuminga’s 19 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds. Daishen Nix added 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists, while Jalen Green scored 9 of his 11 points in the second half. Green also finished with 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
It wasn’t a strong start for the consensus top 5 pick Jalen Green. Although, he did show flashes of elite talent which will have NBA teams salivating.
Santa Cruz built early leads but Ignite settled in to pull the game back each time. With the Warriors up 43-33, Ignite erupted with an 11-0 run over a three-minute span to take the lead. After Bobby Brown’s 3-pointer at 4:20, the team pulled away for good to go up 65-50 at the half.
Ignite ended up leading by as many as 20 points in the second half. However, Nico Mannion did help Santa Cruz cut the deficit to just 3 points with 1:41 remaining in the game.
A basket from Jack and a highlight reel block from Kuminga then put an end to the Warriors’ comeback. G League Ignite closed the game out and took the win, 108-104.
Santa Cruz’s Mannion finished the game 17 points, with Jordan Poole dropping 22 points and NBA veteran Jeremy Lin adding 18 points in his highly anticipated return to action. Axel Toupane finished with a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Kuminga had a dazzling performance, showing off his well-rounded skill set. It was a presentation that will have scouts focusing in on his abilities moving forward, with the 2021 NBA Draft looming.
Game 2, Vs Oklahoma City Blue:
With a win in their debut, it was onto the next challenge for Brian Shaw and Ignite. The challenge waiting, the Oklahoma City Blue. A pair of 20-point performances by Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga lifted the G League Ignite to their second consecutive victory, 109-103.
In a game that featured 18 lead changes, Ignite’s youth took firm control of the game. In what was truly a coming-out game for Jalen Green, he notched 21 points (8-12 FG) and added 5 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block.
It was also another standout game for Jonathan Kuminga who led the way with 24 points. Whilst grabbing 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a single block, on 7-15 shooting.
Green and Kuminga are making a name for themselves early in the bubble. Both have shown clear chemistry, highlighted in this one by Kuminga threading the needle with a bounce pass to find Green who emphatically threw it down.
Isaiah Todd found his rhythm in the second half to produce 12 points and 7 rebounds. Jarrett Jack also scored in double figures, for the second consecutive contest, with 16 points and a game-high 9 assists.
Donta Hall was just one point shy of a double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds. Jessie Govan made his Ignite debut in the second quarter, chipping in 8 points (3-3 FG), including two 3-pointers, to keep the game tight.
Following a half that saw 5 lead changes and 12 ties, the Blue led 48-43 going into the break. Oklahoma City built its largest lead of the game, 78-69, with 32.1 seconds left in the third quarter. But a 3-pointer by Amir Johnson at the 19-second mark kept the lead within single digits.
Todd poured in 7-straight points early in the 4th and Johnson added a layup to power an Ignite run that brought the team back within a single point. The teams then continued to trade blows through the final stretch.
Following a pair of free throws by Kuminga, Ignite led by three points with 1 minute remaining. The team never relinquished that lead.
While Kuminga and Green grabbed the headlines, the efforts of Trinity International product Daishen Nix then attracted attention. The young point guard was solid through 2 games but, he saved his best performance for game 3.
Game 3, Vs Raptors 905:
Back-to-backs can be difficult for any team. With a quick turn around, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the Ignite team fall for the first time. Nonetheless, the team improved to 3-0, as the rookies took control and contributed with 83 points.
On his 19th birthday, the night belonged to Daishen Nix. He celebrated his birthday in style, pouring in 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, in 27 minutes. From the field, he converted 8-15 and knocked down a pair from beyond the arc.
For those who have Daishen Nix as a fringe 1st-round talent, check the tape. This kid is a lottery pick.
Kuminga earned his first career double-double, on a 23 point, 13 rebound performance, and Green tallied his second consecutive 20-point outing. He had 21 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 steals.
Isaiah Todd’s emergence continued with a near-perfect 4-5 shooting performance from 3-point range. This was as he went 5-8 overall to contribute 14 points and 6 rebounds.
Despite 18 first-half turnovers, Ignite led the Raptors 63-59 going into half-time. Through solid defense, they limited the 905 to 36.2% shooting from the floor (21-58).
At the end of the third quarter, each of the team’s rookies had reached double figures. Nix had 19 points, and Green, who scored just 3 points in the first half, went 4-6 in the quarter to bring his total to 15 points.
The Raptors got within 3 in the 4th quarter, however, Kuminga then powered his way to a 10-point, 4-rebound stretch. While Green and Nix added 6 points apiece to help Ignite pull away and win 113-105.
Nik Stauskas led 5 Raptors in double figures with 23 points. Former Washington Wizards point guard Gary Payton II followed with 15, Breein Tyree and Henry Ellenson each had 14, and Malachi Flynn totaled 11. Payton also notched 13 rebounds and 7 steals for a double-double, with Ellenson adding 10 rebounds for his own double-double.
Week 1 in a Nutshell:
You can summarize the G League Ignite teams 3-0 week in 5 words. These words perfectly fly in the face of what not only critics thought, but what fellow G Leaguers within the bubble thought of the Ignite team “experiment”.
This team is for real.
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