Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 96, Lakeland Magic 114| Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo, Alfonzo McKinnie (905), Khem Birch, Wes Iwundu (Magic)
Two-ways: Malcolm Miller (905), Jamel Artis (Magic)
The G League sometimes feels like it was meant for Saturday afternoons, the idiosyncrasies of the league a spiritual fit with the strange vibe an unusual schedule introduces.
The Lakeland Magic would probably agree, albeit for different reasons. They had little trouble adjusting at Hershey Centre on Saturday, steamrolling Raptors 905 by a score of 114-96 to improve to 5-1 on the year. It was a consistent buzzer-to-buzzer victory for a good team facing an opponent in the midst of heavy roster turnover and daily uncertainty as to their roster, something they’re still finding their way through during a 3-3 start to the season.
The 905 got out to a slow enough start to necessitate a Jerry Stackhouse timeout less than five minutes into the game. His frustration in the huddle was understandable with Lakeland out to a 20-6 lead in a blink, with Rodney Purvis left open to go four-of-four on threes before most had even broken a sweat.
“I know that kid. I’ve known Rodney Purvis since he was in middle school and high school, and I ain’t never seen him shoot like that,” Stackhouse said. “I’m not saying he’s not capable, you work on your game, but he had a night for his team tonight.”
With a disorganized offense at the other end and only Bruno Caboclo free-throws on an errant 3-point attempt to keep them, the 905 were playing from underneath immediately. Things looked a little more settled out of the timeout until a few misses at the rim and another Purvis triple swelled the early deficit into the 20s. Purvis eventually missed and Cabcolo grabbed an offensive rebound for a sweet fadeaway, but unsteady shot-making prevented any major run, and the 905 finished the frame shooting 28 percent and in a 40-18 crater.
“I think just a lack of focus. We came out the first two plays of the game and just the concentration level wasn’t there and it just kinda snowballed in the first half,” Stackhouse said. “We had plenty of opportunities. We take some of the makeable shots for us, we make a few of those, then we get back in and maybe get it to 12 or 14 and then it’s manageable, but when you miss those shots, the separation was a little bit too much for us.”
The second quarter saw the 905 find the plot a little better on defense. Their struggles around the rim persisted, though, and making up ground was a slow-moving endeavor. Caboclo and Alfonzo McKinnie brought a nice two-way energy together but had a tough time finishing outside of one great spin move from the latter. Things looked dire as the lead inched toward 30, producing a sense of urgency mid-way through to quarter that helped the 905 begin chipping away. There were some intriguing moments, too, like Malcolm Miller scoring on a pair of jumpers in his first minutes for the 905 or Caboclo holding his ground for a blocked shot against a Khem Birch post-up and then drawing an offensive foul. Davion Berry and McKinnie went on a dual 11-1 mini-run, too, punctuated by the typical McKinnie put-back, and still the lead was only trimmed to 20 at the break.
Stackhouse tried a fresh look out of halftime with Aaron Best and Richard Amardi starting in place of Davion Berry and Andre Washington, looking to get even switchier and a little faster. It didn’t quite have the intended effect, with the Magic quickly pulling away once again. The cold night from beyond the arc continued for the 905, and forays inside proved largely unproductive as well. To their credit, they kept pushing in an attempt to make the deficit more manageable for a fourth-quarter comeback. It just didn’t stick for more than a couple of possessions at a time, and Jamel Artis went to work with 12 of his 23 points in the third to make it a 27-point game.
Despite playing fairly well from there, the 905 just didn’t have the shooting to stage a comeback. They’d finish the game 7-of-33 on threes to 12-of-25 for Lakeland, and between that number and the Magic shooting 56.9 percent inside the arc, there was just no keeping pace. Even with the 905 doing a better job of hanging on to the basketball in recent games, some poor transition defense off of the few turnovers they did commit helped Lakeland to 22 points. It was one of those games where nothing was working consistently outside of getting to the free-throw line, and it’s tough to close a wide margin one point at a time.
“We’ve gotta get better. That team is better, they played better, they competed better, they beat us in every phase of the game,” Stackhouse said. “It’s one of those games where we’ve gotta chalk it up, a lot of moving parts. We got some good things accomplished. I think once we get healthy and get a couple more reinforcements in here, we’ll be fine.”
Afternoons like this are bound to happen. The G League more or less mandates that inexperience and unfamiliarity will rear their head at times, and while Stackhouse’s charges have answered the call to battle turbulence often in the early going, it’s a tough ask every time out. Here, down two of their primary offensive weapons in Lorenzo Brown and Kennedy Meeks and with some new pieces to mix in, there just wasn’t a rhythm at either end of the floor.
The hope will be that the issue resolves itself some with a game under their belts together and a day of film and practice before they take the floor again Monday. This team has generally bounced back well and applied new lessons quickly, and Greensboro represents a somewhat easier litmus than this very good Lakeland team did.
- Assignment notes
- Bruno Caboclo donned a headband for a new look in this one. The result was mostly the same: A few moments where his inexperience showed that were outweighed by the positives on display. Caboclo was shaky from the floor early but finished 9-of-19 for 23 points with six rebounds, four assists, and four steals, and he did an admirable job giving up size to Khem Birch inside and contesting in help during his minutes at center. The minus-25 is unsightly, something worn on the team-level rather than individual.
- Alfonzo McKinnie worked around some early difficulty at the rim to produce a strong stat line, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting with nine rebounds. His first step is explosive enough that even if he’s not a primary attacking weapon, improved finishing in the paint would make him an exponentially greater offensive threat. He’s in the midst of a really solid run for the 905 and is always a safe bet for energy, even in a blowout scenario.
- Other 905 player notes: Playing in his first real game action since May, Malcolm Miller looked pretty comfortable. He was aggressive early in his stint, putting the ball on the floor and hitting a couple of tough jumpers on the move. There’s some understandable rust present with his timing and the full-court conditioning may take a few games. Still, an encouraging debut after four-plus months of inactivity. He finished with four points in 14 minutes…Kaza Keane has to be the most annoying player to play against. He’s always up in another guard’s space and creating deflections and turnovers. I’m excited to see him suit up for Canada next week…Davion Berry hit the 20-point marker for the second time in six games despite a 1-of-9 night from long-range.
- Lorenzo Brown stayed with the Raptors for practice Saturday rather than returning to the 905 for the game. The plan as of Friday night was for Brown to be re-assigned (saving a day on the clock for his two-way time in the process). Clearly the team wants him getting up to speed as quickly as possible with Delon Wright on the shelf. He’s also dealing with a sore left ankle.
- Kaza Keane will now join Canada for FIBA qualifiers camp in Halifax…Kennedy Meeks was absent today as he’s already with USA Basketball for FIBA qualifiers…Shevon Thompson, acquired Friday, is not with the team yet…new additions Kuran Iverson and Chris Flemmings, added with a roster allowance due to FIBA losses, are with the team already.
- Injury notes: Negus Webster-Chan (IT band) missed a sixth consecutive game. He’s expected to return to practice Sunday and is aiming to play Monday, though next weekend may be more likely…Roger Moute a Bidias (knee) also missed a sixth game in a row. He’s dealing with a sprain that was supposed to keep him out four-to-six weeks and is progressing well.
- Other notes: Masai Ujiri, DeMar DeRozan, Pascal Siakam, Lucas Nogueira, and Lorenzo Brown were at Hershey checking out the game.
- Magic notes: Khem Birch has a really nice all-around game. He posted a 13-and-10 double-double here that came entirely within the flow of Lakeland’s gameplan, and he was one of the most composed players on the floor….Wes Iwundu and Jamel Artis are really nice prospects, as well, and Lakeland has to be considered one of the league’s favorites if they have their full contingent of NBA and two-way talent all year…Troy Caupain, who was at Summer League with the Raptors, had 11 points, seven rebounds, and five assists…Rodney Purvis hit five threes in six minutes to start the game, which is another level of heating up quickly. He finished with 28 points.
- Shout out to Anthony Parker, the Lakeland Magic general manager who was in attendance today.
- The 905 are at home a while longer, with games on the 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.