A fairytale run came to a heartbreaking end on Thursday as the Delaware Blue Coats fell short of the mark against the Lakeland Magic in the G-League Championship in a 97-78 loss.
Prior to this season, the Blue Coats had never so much as made the G-League playoffs. But a swift organizational culture change has facilitated a rapid change of fortune.
The Blue Coats have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with several former players becoming mainstays on the Sixers roster. Shake Milton is the brightest prospect to have emerged from the talent pool, but there have been plenty more on show this season looking to follow suit.
After going 10-5 in the regular season, they surged through the first two playoff games with relative ease thanks to spirited efforts from Isaiah Joe and the ever-dominant Paul Reed. The team needed the best from both players on Thursday and while their combined 31 points provided a spark, it wasn’t enough to outpace the defending champions.
Delaware struggled to keep up and their previously-hot shooting seemed to cool off at the worst time. Reed went 6-19 from the floor, while Isaiah Joe struggled to find a rhythm from beyond the arc, completing just 30% of his 9 attempts.
Paul Reed has been a leading MVP candidate all season long after averaging 22.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists this season. Reed added a further 13 points and 11 rebounds to his stat sheet tonight, but in the end, the Finals MVP went to Devin Cannady. His 22 points were vital for the Magic and he helped get them off to a quick start. Lakeland jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter and would hold it for the remainder of the game.
While it’s obviously disappointing that the feel-good story came to an end, the good news is that the Sixers were able to really maximize their G-league team this season, building on what has been a very impressive turnaround. Development is the name of the game and when players get sent down, it often comes with a misconception.
The assignment of rookie Isaiah Joe to the team may have been regarded by many as a negative, but instead, it turned out to be huge for his development.
Not only have both Reed and Joe been able to develop in a competitive setting, but a winning one too. As the Blue Coats rallied through their first-ever postseason run, the two caught fire and ensured they made the most of the opportunity. They will bring back a wealth of experience to the Sixers and light a beacon for other players on the roster who may be just one good year with the Blue Coats away from catching the eye of the Sixers’ staff.
Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire