Raptors 905 122, Greensboro Swarm 109 | Box Score
Assignees: Fred VanVleet, Bruno Caboclo (905), Christian Wood (Swarm)
It didn’t take long for Raptors 905 to find their way.
Coming off of a three-game losing streak at home that had head coach Jerry Stackhouse challenging his team to be better than just good enough to skate by, the 905 have responded with one of their best three-game stretches of the season. On Tuesday, that produced an emphatic 122-109 victory over the Greensboro Swarm, completing a season sweep of the expansion franchise.
The 905 looked hungry from the jump, led by some sweet shooting from E.J. Singler and some great secondary playmaking from Axel Toupane, operating with the starters from the wing. The team’s depth hasn’t been as solid as advertised of late, or at least not consistently, and so it was a good harbinger that as Stackhouse started to go to his bench, momentum only continued to build. Fred VanVleet and Jarrod Uthoff knocked down big triples around a Will Sheehey steal, and then C.J. Leslie got his game off on the right foot with a big putback dunk to put the team ahead 12 early.
Greensboro had little answer into the second quarter, with the 905 holding them to 32.5-percent shooting in the half, with just three triples. As the starters filtered back in, the 905 went on another big run, with assignees Fred VanVleet and Bruno Caboclo leading a 17-5 run to close the half.
Holding a 23-point lead for an entire half is difficult, given score effects and motivational swings and just plain variance, and the Swarm eventually found themselves chipping away. Christian Wood, in particular, got his game going, scoring 10 of his game-high 30 points in the third quarter alone. Xavier Munford chipped in with 10, too, as while the 905 guarded well in general, Greensboro hit a ludicrous 8-of-11 on threes. Turnovers crept in as the 905 got a bit frenetic against the push from the Swarm, and not even Brady Heslip’s hot shooting – he’d finish 5-of-6 on threes for a team-high 25 points – could settle things down.
The hot third bled into the fourth, with the Swarm getting the lead down to as low as four when Caboclo fouled Wood for an and-one on an offensive rebound. To the surprise of some, given his occasional lack of response to adversity in earlier years, Caboclo took that as an impetus to assert himself on the game. He knocked down a mid-range look from VanVleet on the ensuing possession, then knocked down a triple from VanVleet a short while later. VanVleet hit a three of his own in between, then set up Heslip for a triple and Toupane for a transition layup, and just like that the lead was back to 16.
VanVleet’s takeover as a distributor during that three-minute stretch really can’t be overstated. He was smart, surgical, and short of one tough miss at the rim, mistake-free. He’d finish with a modest 12 points but chip in five rebounds, 11 assists, and four steals, all while committing just two turnovers on a night when his teammates struggled to hang on to the ball. Caboclo, too, had a strong showing with 14 points, seven rebounds, three steals, and a complete and impactful defensive effort. It’s a nice sign for the 905 – and the Raptors – that those two were a big part of the team’s biggest runs (and had the highest plus-minus marks of the game as a result).
The 905 mostly cruised down the stretch from there, even briefly pushing the lead back to 21 on yet another Heslip triple before Munford and Wood worked to get it down to the more reasonable final. It’s difficult to expect a 48-minute drudging of an opponent, and the 905 definitely bent at times and let off the gas. Their ability to answer Greensboro’s counterpunch is important, and it’s clear Stackhouse has the team’s confidence where it’s not shaken from a bad run here and there. The defense also remains quite strong, at least inside the arc – the Swram hit 17-of-34 from long-range, a woefully unsustainable mark that would be frustrating had the 905 not gone 16-of-31 themselves. Once they stepped over the line, Greensboro was 18-of-52, unable to get much inside despite some foul trouble for Edy Tavares and Yanick Moreira both. The 3-point defense is something to work on, as are the turnovers, but the 905 continue to do enough things well to win, and win often.
With the victory, the 905 not only feel back on solid footing anecdotally, they’re also back atop the Eastern Conference with a 15-7 record. They rank eighth in offense, fourth in defense, and third in net rating, and they’ll have the benefit of a pair of games in front of all of the eyes of the NBA next week when they host the D-League Showcase at Hershey Centre,
- VanVleet was recalled after the game and will re-join the parent club for practice Thursday and their home game on Friday. Caboclo, meanwhile, is traveling with the 905 for their Thursday road game and will likely be recalled to sit on the bench Friday, too – the 905 return home for more than a week after Thursday thanks to hosting the D-League Showcase next week.
- Delon Wright was down with the 905 for some 3-on-3 practice on Monday. He had mentioned Jan. 17 as a target date for a return to the court, and while some teams don’t send assignment players to the Showcase because it’s meant for the D-Leaguers to get noticed, a pair of games just up the Gardiner would represent a nice opportunity to shake off some rust and work on his conditioning.
- Jarrod Uthoff had a beautiful pump-fake and drive late in the game, and he’s starting to adjust well to teams being aggressive in chasing one of the best lower-usage marksmen in the league (he’s 16-of-32 on the year) off the line. He’s been solid defensively, too, and could probably make a case for more than the 20.7 minutes he’s averaging (although nobody is really averaging heavy minutes, given the team’s depth).
- The D-League Showcase runs Jan. 18-22. The 905 play twice (18, 20), and the Hershey Centre will host 22 games over those five days.
- After the Showcase, the 905 have precious few home games on the schedule. If you want to check any out live, you can go to this link and use the promo code REPUBLIC905 all season long, as the 905 are hooking RR readers up with discounted tickets (including for the two Air Canada Centre games).