Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 112, Westchester Knicks 109 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo (905), None (Knicks)
Two-ways: Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller (inj) (905), Luke Kornet, Isaiah Hicks (Knicks)
Crowds matter. If there was a takeaway from a raucous, high-pitched game at Hershey Centre on Tuesday morning, it’s that an arena full of screaming children can make the difference with the game on the line. Credit Raptors 905’s marketing department and community outreach, then, for helping the team close out a second consecutive narrow victory against the Westchester Knicks, this one a 112-109 barnburner that included a healthy dose of the unusual in the final minutes.
The energy of the crowd seemed to feed the 905 early, and they were able to get out to a fun, if frenetic, start. Another change to the starting lineup proved a short-term two-way punch, and Andre Washington continues to impress with his effort while being asked to play well ahead of schedule in his small-minute starting gig. Bruno Caboclo nearly brought the house down, too, with a wing three while the kids were still firmly paying attention.
The 905 couldn’t get out of their own way, though, which was the story of the first half. Whereas it was four Knicks offensive rebounds in the first quarter helping build a small three-point hole, it was turnovers that bogged the 905 down in the second quarter. At every turn, the momentum their defense could have otherwise provided stalled due to carelessness the other way, and a 61-49 halftime deficit was owed almost entirely to the difference in points off of turnovers, of which the Knicks had 16 to the 905’s two.
It wasn’t just the numbers, either, as the turnovers at times seemed to demoralize. A slow second quarter start got going when Kaza Keane and Richard Amardi provided their now-customary Canadian scoring punch off the bench, and second quarters have quickly become an Amardi party of sorts. Still, a strong stretch of scoring from Amardi, coupled with Keane frustrating Trey Burke on the ball, failed to gain ground thanks to recklessness in the backcourt, leading to a Luke Kornet three. Again later, Caboclo made a tough finish inside only for the 905 to string together back-to-back turnovers to keep them from getting over the hump. A late Knicks’ push saw Burke, Kornet, and Nigel Hayes really get it going on offense, and without the benefit of stops, the 905 just couldn’t score enough to keep pace.
“They’ll get better at it as the year goes on and they get a better feel for each other,” head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “This group hasn’t been together for that long a time, and for them to grind and do what they did in these last couple games, we’re really proud of ’em”
The 905 tried a different look for the second half, starting Kennedy Meeks in Washington’s place, and it paid early dividends as Caboclo grabbed an offensive rebound inside and took it for an and-one. That set a tone, and a prompt 12-4 run essentially reset the game with plenty of time to go. The defense was able to get back to stymying the Knicks, too, chewing up clock with traps and recoveries, and Stackhouse was sure to chip in with some screaming at an official in close earshot of a Xavier Rathan-Mayes 3-point attempt. A Meeks block of a mid-range jumper and Caboclo transition basket later and the 905 had erased their entire deficit in half a quarter. Turnovers nearly reared their head again to threaten the progress, but the 905 settled right back in to take a two-point lead into the fourth.
Between quarters, I went deaf from 4,827 children screaming for free t-shirts. It almost feels like an unfair PED to have a crowd this loud and energetic for a morning home game, and it seemed to help a tired, shortened 905 rotation out of a timeout following an 8-2 Knicks run to start the fourth. The transition attack continued to struggle hanging on to the ball, but otherwise, the 905 were dialed in, with Caboclo procuring a steal to set up an Aaron Best triple and following it with a three of his own. A pair of tough and nifty Lorenzo Brown buckets gave the 905 a five-point edge, their biggest of the game, with four minutes to hang on.
“Man, that was beautiful,” Stackhouse said. “Our guys are used to it, I think that’s the good thing about it with our player development and them kind of getting up early. They’re used to getting up early and performing. The kids were great. It was good, hopefully they had fun and enjoyed the game.”
Out of a Knicks timeout, Brown was fouled on a circus shot to extend the lead but Rathan-Mayes responded from long-range as if he doesn’t even care about his local G League team. Brown responded quickly with a three of his own but Burke banked in a runner and Kornet hit a transition three, trimming the lead to one with 90 seconds to play. After a missed Caboclo three and a nice Caboclo stop on Nigel Hayes, yet another turnover gave Westchester an opening to take the lead out of a timeout, and Burke managed to draw a foul on a runner to put them ahead.
The crowd noise came into effect again, as Burke missed both free throws, allowing Caboclo to grab a defensive rebound and stretch the lead to three after being intentionally fouled. The Knicks then inexplicably got called for a delay of game technical, stretching the 905 lead to two possessions. That gift proved costly, as Rathan-Mayes hit a huge three that would have tied the game otherwise. Caboclo split a pair and Kornet was fouled on the ensuing rebound, because 11 a.m. starts mandate that games be the most G League possible. Naturally, Kornet missed one of his free throws. Berry sealed the game the other way, and a Burke buzzer-beater didn’t fall.
“I just think guys are finding a way to execute,” Stackhouse said. “That’s huge for a young team like we have. We’ve got a lot of young guys who were in college last year and still learning how to win at the pro level. I think when you have games like the one we had in New York, games like tonight, it builds your confidence.”
To call it weird would be an understatement, to call it the way Stackhouse would prefer to win would be disingenuous, and to call it pretty would just be a lie, but the 905 escaped with their second narrow victory over the Knicks in just three days. For a team still finding its way and dealing with the fallout of several marquee losses early, closing out a pair of close games that required double-digit comebacks has to be beyond encouraging.
They’ll need to carry those lessons and momentum into the next few weeks when an extended homestand will see the roster thinned out a little further by FIBA qualifier call-ups. In that sense, these are some pretty big intangible-building victories early in the year, through adversity and with some more on the way. Maybe they can have more sellouts at obscene decibel and pitch levels to help them through it.
- Assignment notes: Bruno Caboclo had yet another really strong game. He finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, three steals, and a block in 42 minutes, was a plus-5, hit 3-of-5 from long-range, scored on a tough finish going to the left, played some solid, if inconsistent, defense on Hayes, and helped ice the game going 3-of-4 at the line late. He’s playing really well right now, staying engaged on defense and thriving in an offensive role that isn’t kowtowing to him but knows how to get him consistently good looks. He’s also shooting the lights out, hitting 10-of-17 on threes so far. Really, really encouraging start to his 905 season.
- Over at Vice, I wrote about Caboclo’s request to be assigned to the 905 and what it means for his NBA future.
- Alfonzo McKinnie is with the Raptors in Houston as Norman Powell insurance.
- Other 905 player notes: Lorenzo Brown struggled with turnovers but was terrific scoring the ball, pouring in 29 points on 16 field-goal attempts…Kennedy Meeks had 18 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes off the bench and continues to look like a nice fit as an offensive focal point who doesn’t gum up the offense with rigid clear-out post-ups…Aaron Best was 4-of-7 on threes and led the team with a plus-12.
- Raptors 905 will lose Kaza Keane (Canada) and Kennedy Meeks (USA) for FIBA qualifiers later this week. They’ll likely miss the next four games. Aaron Best and Richard Amardi are also on Canada’s preliminary roster list.
- Injury notes: Malcolm Miller is targeting Saturday for his 905 debut. He’s been sidelined since July following ankle surgery and has been cleared for full-fourt 5-on-5 for about two weeks. The team wants him at 100 percent before he takes the floor…Negus Webster-Chan (IT band) and Roger Moute a Bidias (knee) are still yet to play this season, too.
- Knicks notes: Xavier Rathan-Mayes is awesome. He’s a guy I’ve been high on for a while thanks in part to looking at him more closely for his national team’s prospects, and he’s done nothing but impress from Summer League onward. He had 12 points, eight rebounds, 14 assists,a nd four steals here…I’m still a believer in Nigel Hayes, too, even if there’s nothing he does great at the NBA level…Stackhouse had some nice praise for Luke Kornet after the game, saying he could help an NBA team now with his shooting (he was 5-of-12 on threes at the center spot)…Isaiah Hicks was less impressive, fouling out in 26 minutes.
- The 905 are at home a while longer, with games on the 18th, 20th, 25th, and 26th before they hit the road again. A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.