NEWARK, DE – The Delaware 87ers (25-21) sped past the visiting Long Island Nets (16-32) 125-113 on Hispanic Heritage Night at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del. The win is the Sevens’ seventh at home in their last eight at the Bob. Delaware is now 3-1 against Long Island this season.
Russ Smith led all scorers with a season-high 37 points on 15-22 from the field. The offensive outburst comes a year and a day after Smith put up 65 points, setting a single-game D-League scoring record that may not be broken for awhile.
“I thought he had a really efficient game,” Head Coach Eugene Burroughs said. “He had rebounds, he had assists. I thought he did a great job distributing the basketball. He had a great game.”
Though this victory wasn’t wire-to-wire like the team’s win over Reno on Wednesday, it was pretty close. The Sevens took a 7-6 lead with eight minutes to go in the first quarter and never relinquished it. Like in their win against the Bighorns, the 87ers fended off numerous Long Island runs with timely stops and buckets.
“We have some good players that play well together, and in any game you’re going to have the ups and downs of the flow of the game,” Burroughs said. “When we get stops, don’t get stops, they score, but when we lock in and decide to play for a long stretch like five minutes or so, I think we end up doing a good job.
“We got some buckets when we needed it, got some stops when we needed it and guys did well sharing the basketball and just had a little extra, you know, pep in their step towards the end.”
Though Smith led the way offensively, he had plenty of help. Delaware had six players finish in double figures, including Carlos Lopez. The big man racked up 16 points on 7-9 shooting and added five assists. It’s the eighth-straight game in which Lopez has shot 60 percent or better from the field. He has 31 points in his last two games and has scored many of his points on off-the-dribble layups.
“I think he’s just feeling more comfortable, and he’s playing a lot so his confidence level is really high,” Burroughs said. “He works on his game, he’s doing individual work and he’s working on the things in practice that he’s applying to the game, so he’s doing a great job also.”
Aaron Harrison (14), Devondrick Walker (13), Nate Robinson (11) and Shane Edwards (10) also ended up in double figures. All 10 players who saw time on the court scored for the Sevens. Delaware has scored at least 30 points in six of their last eight quarters.
“I think it’s based on our guard play,” Burroughs said. “I think when you break it down, those are the guys that end up probably taking most of the shots. Our ones and twos and Carlos Lopez is a great facilitator and he’s actually stepped up his game. You miss Shawn Long, a guy that was getting 20 and 10, and I’m not even sure what Lopez is averaging since that departure, but I’m sure it’s close to 12-13 points per game.”
The Sevens, however, remain 2.5 games back of Fort Wayne, which topped the Grand Rapids Drive tonight. The loss eliminates the Drive from playoff contention, leaving the 87ers as the only team not in the current Eastern Conference playoff picture that still has a chance to make the postseason.