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Delaware Blue Coats G League championship hopes fall short in loss to Lakeland


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The Delaware Blue Coats kept shooting the 3-point shots that fell with regularity over the first two playoff games.

But with a G League championship on the line, the Blue Coats, the NBA developmental team of the 76ers, couldn't find the net and ended up losing 97-78 to the Lakeland Magic at the AdventHealth Arena at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando on Thursday.

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The Blue Coats made just 8 of 39 shots from 3-point range for 20%, but they were only 3 of 23 through the first three quarters. They didn't come close to matching their point totals of 124 and 127 points in the first two playoff games in wins over the Austin Spurs and Raptors 905, respectively. 

Still, this was the first time the Blue Coats had made the playoffs in the team's seven seasons of existence in Delaware. Of course, all of this was done far from the team's home at The Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington.

That's because the Blue Coats were one of 18 teams housed in a bubble environment at the Disney World Complex near Orlando since late January.

The league played 15 games in a span of 25 days, followed by three rounds of single-elimination playoff games over the last four days.

So it's understandable that fatigue was a factor for the Blue Coats. 

That, and superior defense from the Magic, who prevented guard Isaiah Joe from getting anything going. Joe was the Sixers' second-round draft pick last fall.

Joe was on assignment with the Blue Coats for the last five games. He averaged 26.0 points in the first two playoff games. The Magic held him to 18 points on 5 of 13 shooting Thursday.

"(The Magic), to their credit, really had him on the scouting report," Blue Coats coach Connor Johnson said. "He was their No. 1 priority in keeping him from getting open looks. That’s reflected in how we shot."

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Joe will rejoin the Sixers on Friday in Washington for the game against the Wizards. Playing for the Blue Coats enabled Joe to play 35 minutes or more in each game, something that hasn't happened with the Sixers.

Joe said getting that playing time will help him for the rest of the Sixers' season.

"Just get some runs in, get some rhythm, see a few shots go in, I think that’s going to really help my shot whenever I go to the next level," Joe said. "As a shooter, you only gotta see a few go in to get hot. So to get the rhythm of the game, get the flow has kind of helped me."

Paul Reed, the Sixers' other second-round pick last fall, had been with the Blue Coats during the entire time in the bubble. He finished third in the G League in scoring and rebounding during the regular season, averaging 22.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.

But he had just 13 points to go with 11 rebounds on Thursday. Reed is on a two-way contract between the Sixers and Blue Coats. He and Rayjon Tucker, another two-way player, will return to the Sixers as well.

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"I think Paul came to us with incredible natural talent," Johnson said. "He can score from a variety of areas. He can shoot threes, get to the rim. He’s athletic and long – all the hallmarks you look for in a prospect … We’ve seen leaps and bounds in terms of growth and the maturity of his game and his decision making."

Tucker led the Blue Coats with 21 points, but made only 7 of 21 shots, including 2 of 11 from 3-point range.

Devin Cannady led the Magic with 22 points.

The Blue Coats struggles were evident right from the start as Lakeland scored the first eight points of the game. The Blue Coats never recovered. They made just 1 of 15 shots from 3-point range in the first half and shot 32% overall. 

It didn't take long for Lakeland to take control. The Magic scored the first eight points of the game, and the Blue Coats were down by 12 soon after.

They got to within six midway through the second quarter on Tucker's drive. It didn't last as the Magic reeled off seven straight points to go back up by 13.

It didn't get any better in the third quarter. Reed's 3-pointer early in the third quarter got the Blue Coats to within 10 points. But the Magic went on a 19-6 run for a 68-45 lead. Lakeland's lead was up to 25 points just before the end of the quarter.

It's likely that Joe, Reed and Tucker will get a chance for another playoff run as the Sixers currently have the best record in the Eastern Conference with about two months left in the regular season.

For those three, the disappointment of not winning the G League championship could easily be overcome should the Sixers win the NBA title. 

For Johnson, it was a successful, yet memorable, season that he hopes laid the foundation for the future when the team is back playing its home games at the Chase Fieldhouse.

"We can’t lose sight of what we accomplished with the development of our players, with making the playoffs, getting to the finals," Johnson said. "Those need to be the foundation rocks that we continue to build upon. That’ll always be the goal."

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.