Last night, most eyes were on the Sixers and Joel Embiid, who might’ve iced the MVP race once and for all. Philly wasn’t the only city with basketball magic, however, as the Delaware Blue Coats were putting on a display in the G League Finals just down I-95. The Coats secured the first ‘W’ in the best-of-three series, defeating the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 134-120.
The Blue Coats put together a deep roster every year, and there were multiple players who stepped up accordingly. The backcourt duo of Mac McClung and Jaden Springer were the driving force, combining for 88 points on 49 percent shooting from the field.
Mac McClung doing Mac McClung things
Mac McClung has become one of the most popular players in the G League, and it isn’t just because of the dunk contest. He’s been a consistent source of offense for the Blue Coats, and plays with a level of flashiness that fans adore. Whether he’s streaking to the rim for a dunk, doing a skyhook (yes, see below), or hitting a pull-up three, he’s shown he can score with the best.
Mac McClung pulls out the Skyhook as the @blue_coats go racing out to an early lead in Game 1 of the Finals!— NBA G League (@nbagleague) April 5, 2023
Watch the #NBAGLeagueFinals presented by @YouTubeTV on ESPNU! pic.twitter.com/6nqgbmLI96
McClung finished 35 points on 52.3 percent shooting, to go along with his seven assists, three rebounds and one steal. He’s been instrumental in this Blue Coats run, averaging 23.7 points, five rebounds and five assists in three playoff games.
Primarily, McClung matched up against TyTy Washington Jr., a Kentucky guard that the Houston Rockets took 29th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. He’s been a part of the Rockets rotation on numerous occasions and scored in double-digits multiple times this season in the NBA.
That said, McClung, Springer, and the Blue Coats did an excellent job containing Washington Jr. for the entire game. He finished with 34 points, but it took him nearly 30 shots on 37.9 percent shooting to do so. The Vipers have a legitimate collection of talent, and should present a defensive test for McClung and the Blue Coats.
Jaden Springer’s growth continues to flash
Jaden Springer’s development has taken several steps since the calendar flipped. He’s put up numerous big stat lines, but this was easily his best two-way showing at a professional level yet.
Springer started off the game by doing an Embiid impression — logging 16 points, five rebounds, two assists, and three blocks in the first quarter alone. There’s been a massive difference in his approach compared to his first year in the G League. He no longer cruises through games or defers to his teammates on offense. He actively hunted out shots, sought contact, and asserted himself.
Jaden Springer was UNSTOPPABLE during the first half of #NBAGLeagueFinals presented by @YouTubeTV! He had 21 PTS 7 REB and 3 BLK for the @blue_coats!— NBA G League (@nbagleague) April 5, 2023
The second half is underway NOW on ESPNU! pic.twitter.com/GpYztGOXVX
A big talking point with Springer’s development has been his perimeter shooting. All fans will be happy to hear that he shot eight times from three, hitting five of his attempts. The perimeter shooting comes and goes, but it’s clear he’s established a new level of confidence in his perimeter game. In three postseason games, Springer has shot 42.9 percent on 4.7 attempts.
Another area I was impressed with was Springer’s body control. He’s only 20 years old, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from watching this game. He played like a built veteran, muscling his way through numerous Viper defenders, getting to the rim or even rising up to hit a midrange shot.
It’s hard not to get excited about Springer’s growing offense, but he’s continued to be arguably the best defensive player in the G League this season. He’s averaging center-esqe numbers in three postseason games; 10 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.
Springer finished with 43 points on 46.6 percent shooting, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals, and four blocks. He’s one of only three G League players to score 40 or more points in the Finals. The Sixers needed Springer to show something this year, and he’s showed serious growth in various departments over the past few months.
Charlie Brown Jr. and Micheal Foster’s contributions
Two familiar names!
Sixers’ two-way player Louis King was inactive for this game, and Charlie Brown Jr. stepped up big time in his absence. CBJ did a little bit of everything, logging 17 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. He even had this wild circus shot go in:
Charlie Brown Jr. ARE YOU SERIOUS⁉️ What a shot @blue_coats— NBA G League (@nbagleague) April 5, 2023
Watch the #NBAGLeagueFinals presented by @YouTubeTV on ESPNU! pic.twitter.com/NxDn2xQBDF
Micheal Foster, a former Sixers’ two-way player, was the Blue Coats’ small ball big for most of the game. He did well, scoring 12 points to go along with his 13 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks.
Game 2 on the horizon
The Blue Coats will travel to Bert Ogdan Arena to possibly close out the series and win their first G League title ever. Catch Jaden Springer, Mac McClung, and the Coats on April 6 at 8:30 PM EST. The game will be televised on ESPNNews.