Raptors905 Post-Game

Raptors 905 pull away from Nets to lock up division crown

The ball movement in this game was unbelievable.

Karyn Stepien/KarynStepien.com

Photo by KarynStepien.com

Raptors 905 120, Long Island Nets 105 | Box Score
Assignees: Pascal Siakam, Bruno Caboclo (905), Tim Quarterman (Nets, via Trail Blazers)

With four days off between games and the lone playoff berth in the entire D-League clinched early, Raptors 905 could have been expected to come out a little slow on Saturday afternoon. Hosting the lowly Long Island Nets, a mixture of complacency in the standings, rest for a few key pieces, and too much time off hung over the opening tip. But for the 905, head coach Jerry Stackhouse stands as a sort of insulation against malaise, with the bench boss licking his chops at the idea of getting two great, hard practices in this week as much as he was looking forward to just getting to the postseason healthy.

The goal has not been accomplished yet, and with a chance to clinch the first Central Division title in franchise history on the line, the 905 heeded Stackhouse’s warnings, beating the Nets 120-105 to wrap up the division, moving within a half-game of clinching a conference title, and improving to a league-best mark of 33-11.

The game started out somewhat similar to Monday’s showing at the Air Canada Centre. Now healed from a minor shoulder injury, Bruno Caboclo took the place of Jakob Poeltl helping push the issue for the 905 alongside Pascal Siakam, and the Nets looked a little overmatched early. Siakam had a nice sequence with a steal, a dunk, and then a block in transition, while Caboclo attacked the glass and had a terrific block at the rim in a help-the-helper scenario. The Nets continued shooting above their heads – the parent club’s strategy most nights – but a pair of Brady Heslip lobs to Edy Tavares bookended a 33-28 opening frame for the home side.


In the second, it was E.J. Singler and Will Sheehey taking over as the lob-throwers for Tavares, who scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half, eight of them on alley-oops. Thet Nets, though, kept coming, shooting 50 percent overall and from three in the half and pushing things in transition despite the 905 doing a good job taking care of the ball. Any miss was heading back the other way, and without Siakam’s transition defense due to some early foul trouble, the 905 bent some. Late int he quarter, the Nets took a brief lead, their first of the game, but Caboclo closed out the half with a buzzer-beating corner three to take a six-point lead into the break. With 22 assists on 27 field-goal attempts and just three turnovers, it seemed a second-half pull-away against the lowly Nets would be a matter of locking in on defense. (The 905 would finish with a ludicrous 39 assists on 51 field goals with nine turnovers. 39 assists!)


The two sides opened the second half trading buckets, but the 905 were able to build some momentum in thanks to the petulance of R.J. Hunter. Hunter missed a three and was slow to get back, allowing Siakam to beat him down the floor, and then Hunter continuing to complain to the official was followed by a Heslip three the other way. A five-second inbound violation and Axel Toupane cut later, and the 905 had a double-digit lead. A transition tic-tac-toe culminated in a Caboclo dunk, and the 905 were off.


A large part of the team’s pristine ball movement as they pulled away came thanks to Heslip. Heslip’s been working to show that he can defend at the next level, and while that remains a question mark, he’s taken strides as a playmaker. He’s the D-League’s most prolific 3-point shooter, which itself warrants a look, but he’s now averaging over three assists per-game, too, and dropped nine dimes here on an afternoon his shot wasn’t dropping early (he’d find it and tie for the team-high with 18 points). As Heslip and the assignees went to the bench, the Nets pushed back, but the lead remained 15 entering the fourth, a veritable stranglehold given how the 905 had dialed in on defense.

Sheehey tried to end the game early in the fourth, attempting what would have been an obscene baseline poster on Prince Ibeh, only to be turned away. That would have sent the 4,044 in attendance home hapy and early, but since Sheehey didn’t knock the earth off axis, the Nets were able to mount a mini-comeback. Stackhouse called for a timeout with the lead trimmed to 10. The 905 stayed cold for the first half of the quarter, leading Stackhouse to turn back to his assignees to close out, though it wasn’t initially a remedy to the redundant late-clock jump-shooting. A Heslip triple kept the lead from being trimmed to a single possession. And then he hit a cutting layup. And then a wide-open triple that Siakam kicked out from a transition post-up.

That, as they say, was all she wrote. You can make a comeback against the 905, you can even beat the 905, but you can’t, under any circumstances, leave Heslip open during a key stretch. The 905 cruised closing it out from there, with Siakam dunking and then throwing a tough lob to Tavares for a tip-in, and the final wound up making this thing look much more wide open than it felt for the bulk of the afternoon. It’s nice to have that pull-away switch, and with the ball moving as freely as it did, with nine players scoring seven or more points and all 11 dishing at least two assists, opposing playoff opponents have to be a little concerned about slowing this offense down.

Notes

  • This was perhaps Bruno Caboclo’s best two-way game of the season. His length was a huge factor on the defensive end, he continues to show improvements in terms of awareness rotating, closing out, and general positioning, and he’s come a long way as a man-to-man defender on the perimeter. His offensive role is small, but he shoots threes decisively and gets back in transition quickly, which is all that’s being asked. He scored 16 points on eight field-goal attempts, hit three threes, added seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal, and was a plus-22 in 32 minutes. Progress isn’t linear, but late in the season, this was an encouraging showing.
  • Pascal Siakam was everywhere when he was on the floor. Foul trouble limited him to just 23 minutes, but he used them well, tying for the team-high with 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He continued flashing range, even hitting a three, made a couple of nice passes in transition, and it was clear that Nets ball-handlers were keenly aware of where he was coming from as a helper at all times. He grabbed seven rebounds and added four assists, three steals, and a pair of blocks, playing to a plus-16. He’s still moving a little fast out there, but it’s clear his energy, athleticism, and even his post game are high-level for the D-League. Hopefully nobody lost faith in his long-term outlook as he played up-and-down in a larger role than ideally would have been asked of him in the NBA.
  • C.J. Leslie and Antwaine Wiggins sat this one out for rest. Jerry Stackhouse mentioned Monday that he’d look to get some of his guys rest down the stretch, opening up more minutes for Negus Wesbter-Chan, Goodluck Okonoboh, and Christian Watford. Siakam and Caboclo ate some of those minutes here, but expect others to sit down in the coming weeks.
  • The 905 head out on a four-game road trip from here, and while the locales are close by, another lengthy trip is probably annoying. They had a home-heavy schedule earlier in the year, and so Saturday was their first game at Hershey Centre in over two weeks, and they won’t return for almost two more weeks.
  • If you wanted to attend their March 30 home finale at Hershey Centre, you can go to this link and use the promo code REPUBLIC905 for a discount.

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