The Cleveland Charge snapped their three-game losing streak with an improbable 24-point comeback to win 122-115 over the top ranked Long Island Nets. The Charge are now a half game back of the sixth and final playoff spot with three games remaining.
Cleveland looked outmatched for the first three quarters. They were able to stay within arm’s length of the Nets for most of the first half, but failed to close out the second quarter strong. Long Island went on a run to close the half taking a 16-point lead into the break. The lead ballooned to 24 midway through the third before the Charge began to put up any resistance and cut it to 18 heading into the fourth.
The final quarter was a completely different story. Charge head coach Mike Gerrity rode with a five-man unit of Blake Franics, Chandler Vaudrin, Sam Merrill, Nate Hinton and Isaiah Mobley the entire frame. This unit outscored Long Island 40-15 in the final frame.
“Nate was just saying ‘we can lock them down, we can do it. We just gotta believe,’” Isaiah Mobley said. “Blake lifted us up. And then Sam got going, I got going a little bit. Nate hit a big shot. Chandler was doing the little things. We had a good group and kind of kept it rolling.”
“They brought us that far, so we had to let them see it through. You don’t want to mess that up,” Gerrity said “I kept looking at the time, looking at the minutes, and looking at them breathing heavy, but they didn’t want to come out. So, you’re gonna ride with that group because they brought us back.”
The comeback was a group effort, but it started with Mobley. He struggled in the first half to find a rhythm and seemed to be rushing things before the game settled down for him in the third and fourth quarters.
Drawing contact and getting to the foul line down the stretch was how the game was able to slow down for Mobley. He drew three shooting fouls in the final quarter to complete the comeback. This, he thanks to watching the Sixers’ Joel Embiid do the same against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
“Honestly, when I go with the Cavs, I’m watching and learning,” said Mobley. “I’m trying to sponge sponge sponge. We just watched Embiid. I’m just watching this dude and like, he’s the biggest dude on the court. He could probably go Shaq mode and just turn his back to the basket and jump hook it every time. But nah. He’s searching for fouls. Little stuff like that.
“I don’t necessarily pattern my game after anybody. I just try to steal as much as I can. So seeing him and how he was giving us trouble in terms of that and how you can’t play the same kind of defense when you have a couple fouls. I kinda tried to steal that from him. It is something I try to look for.”
“[Isaiah] just has a great basketball IQ,” Gerrity said. “He’s got a great feel for the game and you know he’s continuing to get better and better. What I loved about his game is that in the first half he had a few turnovers. He missed some around the basket but he just continued to attack and be persistent.”
The elder Mobley was the best player on both ends. He finished the evening with 26 points on 8-15 shooting with 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers and a block. Twelve of his 26 came in the fourth.
Subbing in Franics for Sharife Cooper, who was struggling to find his shot, also made a huge impact. Francis scored 14 of his 26 in the final quarter after not playing in the first half.
“He provided shot making,” Gerrity said. “He was making shots, but at the same time he had a great balance of getting to his shot, but also getting other guys their shots in the right spots.”
While the offense was good, the defense is what kept Francis in the game. “I’ve told him he’s a very talented offensive player, but when you’re a guard, you just gotta be a pest on defense,” Gerrity said. “I thought he really did that. So, to not have your number called until four or five minutes into the second half and do what he did was special.”
Newest Cavalier Sam Merrill was also a big reason why the Charge were able to complete the comeback. He provided 10 points on 2-3 shooting from deep in the fourth including the game tying three with two minutes left in the game.
OH MY SAM#ChargeUp pic.twitter.com/oaYM76p8cA— Cleveland Charge (@ChargeCLE) March 18, 2023
“Sam’s just good,” Mobley said. “You take away his shooting and he’s still a just a good, smart, sound basketball player player. I love playing with Sam. I try to make stuff easier for him. And, it wasn’t necessarily a call [referring to his screen for Merrill on the tying three] coming down. I just tried to get him open and he delivers.”
Merrill finished his first return visit to the Charge with 20 points on 5-14 shooting with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
The Charge won’t be able to celebrate this victory long as they take on the Nets again Saturday night at the Wolstein Center.
“It’s gonna be a dogfight from beginning to end,” Mobley said. “But I think if we come out correct and sustain the energy, I think that we can get another W.”
“Every one of these games down the stretch matters,” Gerrity said. “We just got to take care of our business, the rest will take care of itself.”