The Delaware Blue Coats fell to the Maine Red Claws, 148-125, in both team’s season opener on Saturday night. The opening night loss was disappointing for the Blue Coats, but not a season-defining loss as the team is still projected to have a successful season.
The Blue Coats have a quick turnaround and are back at the 76ers Fieldhouse on Monday night to play the Greensboro Swarm.
“This was our first time as a team doing something against someone else,” Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson said after the game Saturday.
“Now we have to ask ourselves, did we really have the fight, and did we play the way we want. Our guys are disappointed and have a realization of what it’s going to take to be successful, and now we’ve got to go to work.”
Maine shot 43 percent from three-point range and outrebounded the Blue Coats 57-45.
The Red Claws utilized their extremely talented trio of prospects with Tremont Waters at point guard, Romeo Langford on the wing, and 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall presenting a constant presence in the post.
The Blue Coats struggled to defend the three-point shot and the Red Claws capitalized. Waters converted 7-of-11 attempts from three in his first G-League game. The former LSU guard is primed to be one of the top shooters in the NBA G-League this season.
The day after his G-League debut against Delaware, Langford was called up by the Boston Celtics. Langford will take Gordon Hayward’s roster spot as he recovers from a broken hand.
Langford shot the ball well and showed his ability to work his way to the basket against the Blue Coats. The No. 14 overall pick in this summer’s draft could become an impact player on the Celtics sooner than later.
The Blue Coats’ top offensive scorer was Marial Shayok, who created and converted open shots throughout the contest. The Sixers’ second-round pick and two-way player scored a game-high 34 points (14-24 FG, 3-7 3FG) in 29 minutes.
Shayok and Zhaire Smith, both started at the wing for the Blue Coats on Saturday night. The duo gave head coach Connor Johnson a nice combo of shooting and elite athleticism.
“Mainly, it was just reading the defense and taking what they gave me,” Shayok said. “I thought I actually missed a lot of shots I usually make. Hopefully, next game, I can make those shots and we can get the W.”
Shayok and Smith will have another tough test defensively on Monday night against Greensboro, with Jalen McDaniels and Kobi Simmons.
Both players performed extremely well in the Swarm’s opening night victory against the Erie Bayhawks over the weekend.
Simmons, a point guard with NBA experience, posted 22 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds, falling just a rebound shy of a triple-double.
McDaniels, however, is a lengthy forward, who was drafted by the Hornets in the second round of this year’s NBA draft. The former San Diego State Aztec had 16 points (5-9 FG) and four rebounds against the Bayhawks.
The Hornets assigned McDaniels to the Swarm, similar to how the Sixers assigned Zhaire Smith to the Blue Coats.
Down low, the Blue Coats will have a unique challenge going up against the Swarm’s Robert Franks and Thomas Welsh. Franks led the Swarm in scoring with 29 points, converting 10-of-15 shots from the field and 5-of-6 three-pointers.
On Saturday night, the Blue Coats struggled to defend the three-point shot. Therefore, they’ll want to avoid letting Franks find open looks outside.
While Frank was doing damage from the perimeter. Welsh scored 23 points, mainly coming from inside against Erie.
The Blue Coats have an extremely strong group of bigs with Christ Koumadje and Doral Moore. Against the Red Claws, Koumadje had five rebounds and four blocks. Moore, however, had six rebounds and a block off of the bench.
That being said, limiting Welsh offensively as well as on the glass will be a key for the Blue Coats.
Nevertheless, there are still 49 games left to play for the Blue Coats.
Saturday’s regular-season opener was a disappointing start, but certainly not a season-defining loss. Still, the Blue Coats will need to correct their defensive errors quickly.
The Red Claws were allowed far too many open looks from three, and a similar performance against Greensboro would put the Blue Coats in a difficult position.
Therefore, they’ll look to jump out to a lead and avoid having to play catch up as they did against Maine.
“Our transition defense and communication need to improve,” Zhaire Smith said. “We really were quiet out there.”
“We have good defensive players,” Johnson said. “Our energy, attitude, and awareness during the first game got us a little bit.”
“That’s not an excuse for us, these guys are professional basketball players who’ve played a lot of basketball. We’ve got to do a better job as coaches preparing them, and they’ve got to come out and compete at a high level.”
* Photo courtesy of Delaware Blue Coats’ Twitter Account