Undone by a late surge from the Long Island Nets, the Wisconsin Herd fell two minutes short of victory on Saturday night in New York, concluding their tumultuous 2018-19 campaign.
As the 2018-19 NBA G League regular season comes to a close, 22 games separates the best team in the Eastern Conference (and perhaps the whole competition), the Long Island Nets, and the worst (at least by record), the Wisconsin Herd.
On Saturday night, only a solitary point could split the two, though, with the Nets overcoming a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Herd, 126-125 at Nassau Coliseum.
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Both teams traded baskets for a majority of the first half, with neither side able to open up, or extend their brief leads beyond a two-possession ball game.
At one point, a 12-0 run from Long Island, on the back of Brooklyn Nets assignee, Dzanan Musa (27 points, seven rebounds and six assists), and two-way player, Theo Pinson (23 points, five assists and two blocks), looked to have cracked the contest wide open, yet Wisconsin immediately responded, largely thanks to Michael Qualls, who had 20 points (of 22, seven rebounds and three steals) by halftime.
With the scores level heading into the third quarter, Xavier Munford, the Herd’s Player of the Game, took over. Tallying 19 points over the next 12 minutes, the Team USA representative powered the Herd to a double digit lead. Finishing with 31 points, six assists, four steals and a plus/minus of +8, in what was without doubt, his finest outing since returning to Oshkosh in late January.
Hopefully (and granted, X is more than capable of playing at the highest level overseas, or competing for an NBA roster spot somewhere around the league, but if that doesn’t eventuate), this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the ‘franchise leader in almost everything’ wearing a Herd (or Bucks?) uniform.
The fourth quarter rolled around, and it was time for the Johnson show, as Nick (16 points and six assists), and Robert (14 points) went bucket for bucket, ensuring the Herd would lead by eight with five minutes remaining. It was from here, however, that they would only score four more points in the contest.
The Nets leveled inside of two minutes, and effectively iced the game with a three-point dagger from Thomas Wimbush (15 points). In a frenzied final 60 seconds, the Herd would miss two go-ahead buckets, and a potential game-winner, which was air-balled, then putback dunked, but after the final buzzer had sounded.
For Long Island, the victory sealed their series sweep (3-0 by 13 points) over the Herd, and that the Nets would finish with an equal best record of 34-16. Meanwhile, Wisconsin lumbered to 12-38, which isn’t necessarily indicative of the quality of talent which has passed through Fox Valley this year.
All in all, a disappointing way to end a very tough season for Wisconsin, although you could definitely argue that this was one of their better performances in a loss, especially without Christian Wood, having played one of the best teams (potential champions?) in the NBA G League to one point, on the road, whilst forcing 24 turnovers.
With Trevon Duval absent (and likely with the Bucks to cover their late-season injury crisis), Bonzie Colson was the sole two-way player to suit up, posting 15 points, 12 rebounds (four offensive boards), and a pair of assists, in a quiet, but effective night for the 23-year-old.
If the Milwaukee front office decides to use their team option on his two-way deal, and bring Colson back for next season, the key thing to watch will be whether Bonzie can improve his three-point shot.
Despite starting hot with the Herd, since February, he has only connected on 24 percent of his triples (21-of-87) in the G League. Whilst an above-average defender, who takes a decent volume of attempts, his ticket to an NBA roster spot (and especially on the Bucks under Budenholzer) is raising that percentage into the low-30s, and then knocking on the door of the 40s.
As for now, Duval and Colson are free to return to the Bucks, without any NBA days of service limitations, although they are playoff ineligible. That wraps it up for the second season of Herd basketball!