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Raptors905 Post-Game

Raptors 905 punch ticket to finals with 2-0 sweep of Maine

It’s exceptionally lit.

Raptors 905 103, Maine Red Claws 88 | Box Score | Raptors 905 win series 2-0
Assignees: Pascal Siakam, Bruno Caboclo (905), Demetrius Jackson, Jordan Mickey (Red Claws)

Before Raptors 905 tipped off for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse was presented with the D-League Coach of the Year award. While the award is given with only the regular season in mind, the playoffs so far have represented a strong litmus test as just how strong the 905’s season has been.

Before the playoffs, they lost Will Sheehey to injury. One game in, they lost Axel Toupane to the NBA. One round in, it was Edy Tavares getting the call. With the progression of each game has come a new challenge or a new adverse circumstance, and at each step, the 905 have just kept on moving forward. The Coach of the Year honor is a nice recognition, but despite everything accomplished so far – including Pyrrhic victories in the form of call-ups – the team was still set to approach Tuesday’s game for what it was: The chance to inch even closer to a goal bigger than any individual recognition.

“It’s not about anything else but going out, competing, and trying to finish this off. We talked about this and set goals at the beginning of the season,” Stackhouse said. “Personally, it’s gratifying, absolutely, to understand that you can have a system and a way of doing things that guys accept and have been able to thrive and flourish in.”

The team’s entire philosophy is being tested in these playoffs, the limits of an all-for-one, depth-reliant system stretched to the extremes. At each measuring point, the parts that remain have been weighed and found ample. To the surprise of nobody at this point, that was the case once again as the 905 rolled to a 103-88 victory and a place in the D-League Finals.

The 905 got out to a bit of a shaky start, allowing a pair of Maine buckets and requiring three offensive rebounds on the same possession before Bruno Caboclo got them on the board. The Red Claws hardly scored from there, shooting 2-of-15 over the rest of the quarter and coughing the ball up five times. The 905 didn’t make the best advantage of those turnovers (zero points), but pushing the ball the other way off of misses produced some nice opportunities to hit the glass against a scrambled defense. Six offensive rebounds in the first quarter led to eight second-chance points, and Caboclo had a pair of big ones he was able to score off of himself. Away from the glass, E.J. Singler was the only Raptor hitting early, but when you hold an opponent to 11 points on 22 possessions in a quarter, good things happen. As such, the 905 left the frame with a 12-point edge.

You have to score at some point, though, and the 905’s inability to do so early in the second saw the Red Claws slowly chip away. A thunderous Demetrius Jackson dunk cut the lead down to one with four minutes left in the half, marking a good time for Brady Heslip to hit his second three of the series on 10 attempts to that point. Pascal Siakam followed with a monster dunk of his own in transition, and the 905 had wrestled control back just like that. That bit of momentum snowballed in the form of an 18-0 run, Heslip heated up (hitting four more threes in the quarter and ultimately finishing with 21 points), and the Raptors assignees engaged in a nifty wing weave to free Singler for a three, pushing the lead out to 20 at the break.

For the second game in a row, the deficit seemed to frustrate the Red Claws, with Abdel Nader getting into it with C.J. Leslie a bit late in the half (they both received technicals). And for the second game in a row, that failed to manifest in any sort of sustained pushback – Maine made a brief run early in the third, but the strong defense withstood the test and a gang-rebounding approach to the glass against Maine’s length (and, uhh, girth) helped clean things up even in the absence of top rebounder Edy Tavares.

“We’ve changed course a lot of times this year, different styles that we’re able to play. Edy did clean up so much for us. Obviously, the Defensive Player of the Year, which is very deserved,” Stackhouse said before the game. “He was an anchor for us. I still say Edy played probably less than 24 minutes a game, so those other 25 minutes, we were pretty good defensively, too.”

That defense began getting tested late in the third, and with their season on the line, Maine found that bit of desperation that was lacking in Game 1. Guerschon Yabusele roaring down the floor for a foul in transition cut the lead to 11 with nine minutes to play, a reasonable deficit to try to erase even against the best of D-League defenses. Even as that defense bent some for the first time in the series, though, the 905 kept answering back, and while the close-out felt tight on account of the stakes, the Red Claws never really pulled back close enough to put the 905 in danger.

Because these things tend to provide the copy for you at times, Caboclo put the most fitting of caps on a terrific individual performance, rejecting Jordan Mickey as the shot-clock sounded for a turnover with under two minutes to go. That effectively ended Maine’s push, and stuck 17, head coach Scott Morrison brought in his bench to wind out the clock.

The 905 meanwhile, fought to contain smiles in a late huddle and then failed to do so at a stoppage in the final minute of play. Through everything – assignments, recalls, injuries, and call-ups – they’ve just kept winning. The feeling around the team is that as they keep moving forward, they’re becoming even more unassailable despite the subtractions.

“These guys, they all carry a little chip on their shoulder. I think they’ve done that since the beginning of the season,” Stackhouse said. “They’ve put in the work, so they have that swagger comes from the confidence of knowing they’ve put in the work to put themselves in this position. That’s what I see now: A confident group that’s just trying to get it done.”

The confidence is obvious as they continue to steamroll through all of the obstacles put in front of them. And now getting it done is just a matter of two more victories.

Notes

  • Stay with me here: Bruno Caboclo was excellent in this one. Not only was this one of Caboclo’s finest offensive performances of the season – he scored 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting and hit 4-of-8 on threes – he also continued to show why those who have tuned in this season have come away excited about his defensive potential. His growth as a team and man defender is obvious, and it was paramount as the 905 sustained Maine’s push in the fourth. This was really encouraging to see after Caboclo was mostly a non-factor on offense over his first few playoff appearances.
    • I asked Stackhouse about Caboclo’s progress after the game, and seriously, I wish my dad talked about me like that.
  • Pascal Siakam also turned in a strong showing, once again scoring in a variety of ways and showing some really nice post work. He finished with 15 points on 15 field-goal attempts, and while that’s nothing special, he also dished four assists, showing some nice vision on the move or on the block. He pulled in 10 rebounds, too, a critical contribution as the 905 crashed aggressively to secure a 10-rebound edge. He and Caboclo were both also big factors in keeping Abdel Nader and Jalen Jones, two excellent prospects, in check. Siakam’s had himself a solid playoff run.
  • Both Siakam and Caboclo are being recalled and will join the Raptors in Milwaukee tomorrow, then get assigned back down for Game 1 of the finals.
  • Boston Celtics assignee Demetrius Jackson was invisible for a second straight playoff game, so he’ll fit in seamlessly once recalled.
    • (He wasn’t actually bad here, scoring a team-high 21 points, I just had to get that joke off.)
    • Guerschon Yabusele is so much fun to watch in person. He had a rough series here and I’m not sure how his skill set, at his size, is going to translate to the NBA, but in the D-League, unique is always good.
  • The Hershey Centre was a little empty, with an announced attendance of 1,967. Stackhouse had tried to prepare his team for that ahead of time: “I know the Leafs are playing tonight, so we’re gonna try to probably create our own enthusiasm a little bit, may not be the excitement that we’d hope for being back in our home building. But we’ve done it before, so I’d expect nothing less than an unbelievable effort.”
  • Stackhouse was mic’d up for the ESPNU broadcast. Someone will have to tell me if he needed editing, because he wasn’t going to change his sideline language for TV: “That’s on them. They gotta edit it accordingly. I have no control over that.”
  • Former Raptors assistant and Canada Basketball head coach Jay Triano was in attendance. More importantly, so was Alex Wong.
  • The 905 will now await the winner of tonight’s deciding Game 3 between the Oklahoma City Blue and Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Game 1 will go Saturday or Sunday on the road before the 905 return home looking to secure a championship (likely) on Tuesday and Thursday. (This schedule isn’t confirmed, but with the championship needing to wrap by April 27 and the Mississauga Steelheads playing at home April 26, there really aren’t many other sequencing options.)
    • Raptors Republic readers can get discounted 905 playoff tickets by using the promo code REPUBLIC905.

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