Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 90, Greensboro Swarm 109| Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo, Alfonzo McKinnie (905), None (Swarm)
Two-ways: Malcolm Miller, Lorenzo Brown (905), Charles Cooke [via Pelicans], Jalen Jones [via Pelicans], Mangok Mathiang, Marcus Paige (Swarm)
The Raptors 905 started with a whimper against the Greensboro Swarm, unable to match their opponents’ focus, according to Coach Stackhouse. With Meeks gone, playing for the USA at FIBA, Cabaclo started at center again. He opened the game on a positive note with a huge block, and his swarming, engaged defense was equalled on the other end by a Malcolm Miller transition 3. The shot represented both a good start for the team and for Miller, who is recovering from a severe ankle sprain that required surgery. That would sadly be the end of the optimism for the 905.
The half-court offense began in a bog, with little shot-creation from the perimeter or at the rim. No 905 player acted decisively, and turnovers helped derail any momentum the team could gain. The team couldn’t create any half-court buckets early, with their only points emerging from a Caboclo putback layup and a Malcolm Miller putback dunk; Lorenzo Brown earned Kobe assists on both plays, in which he drew the defensive attention and missed the shot, creating the opportunity for both offensive rebounds.
On the other end, Jalen Jones killed the Raptors with 12 early points in the first few minutes of the first quarter. He leads the team in scoring on the season, with 21 ppg on an efficient 51% shooting, and he proved to have too much size and quickness for Alfonzo McKinnie, who consistently was unable to stop Jones’ drives 1-on-1.
The Swarm jumped out to a quick 26-7 lead, and they dominated in every facet. Even when they missed shots, they were able to convert through second chances (21 in the game) or free throws (23 in the game), led by Jones attempting seven free throws in just the first quarter.
When the 905 didn’t turn it over, they were forced into difficult, end-of-shot-clock turnaround jumpers. The Swarm capitalized with plenty of transition chances, scoring 17 fast break points in the first half. Charles Cook III scored 22 first half points with two 3s and plenty of first half dunks. He only averages 14 on the season.
There were some tiny positives throughout the first half. Caboclo had two massive blocks, though he struggled to clean the defensive glass. Asked after the game about Caboclo’s compete level, Stackhouse put it bluntly: “I thought he got his ass kicked.” While his length is a huge boon on the defensive end, his lower half isn’t yet strong enough to keep offensive rebounders out of the lane. Caboclo’s matchup, Mangok Mathiang, finished with 6 offensive rebounds on the game.
In the second quarter, McKinnie finished at the rim with a nifty little back-down in transition, jumping off the wrong foot. He had another finish in close on the next possession; the team needs more of his scoring ability. The 905 ask more of him than Windy City did last year, as the team expects him to create much more on his own. He followed up his makes with two close-range misses, the second resulting from a massive Mangok Mathiang block. Change is hard.
By the halftime break, the only thing keeping the 905 afloat was 10 free throw attempts for Brown, who made 9. The refs made some questionable calls benefitting both teams at times, and it appeared to get under the Swarm’s skin. After two jump balls – due to indecision on the part of the refs – Caboclo hit a 3 to cut the lead to 11.
The second half was better in the process-sense, but not so much in the results-sense. The 905 jumped out to a hot start early in the third quarter. Malcolm Miller finally hit an above-the-break 3 after missing two consecutive shots from the same area. Even after Jones drew another foul on McKinnie – his fourth personal – Stack left McKinnie in the game, and he was rewarded. Miller hit a circus layup, and Brown stole the ball in the backcourt and finished, cutting the lead to 9. That would be the closest they would come. Stackhouse expanded: “We had some really good looks. I thought we had some shots that could have made it really, really interesting, but we missed those. And then we compounded it with a turnover here, a turnover there… It’s growing pains right now; [we have] some guys that are learning how to win.”
Some timely shooting at least kept the Swarm from pulling away late in the third quarter, as Caboclo, McKinnie, and Best all hit triples. Best, in particular, aggressively hunts his shot flying around off-ball screens, and his shooting gives a lot of life to a 905 halfcourt offense that struggles to consistently create easy shots. However, any 905 momentum would immediately be stymied by a Paige floater, Jones drive, or Cooke III jumper.
An early Amardi-at-center look in the 4th quarter gave up four consecutive offensive rebounds. Stackhouse has few options for center, and the team is doing its best with immense personnel overturn. Even though roster change is a necessity given the modus operandi of the G-League, the past week has been especially difficult. Roster churn is the hallmark of a good team, and the 905 wear their turnstile as a badge, not an excuse.
The game was decided long before the end of the final quarter. Jalen Jones and Charles Cooke III each reached the 30-point plateau early in the final frame with fewer than 20 field goals apiece. The 905 struggled to challenge the Swarm wings’ dominance. A major reason was because of the poor shooting of their stars; McKinnie finished shooting 6/14 on the game. Caboclo was 5/19. These games happen, and it’s important to note that the team’s worst effort was demonstrated in the first quarter.
- Assignment notes
- Bruno Caboclo … Though he played active defense and used his length well to contest shots and strip the ball, Caboclo couldn’t control the defensive glass. He’s not a center, and that the 905 are forced to play him there says more about the roster turnover than about Caboclo’s projected skills. He shot poorly, but he leveraged his length well. He finished with two steals and three blocks. Stack was unhappy with his effort, to say the least.
- Alfonzo McKinnie … This was a rough game. He had trouble containing Jalen Jones, who dropped 36 tonight, most of them coming with McKinnie as the primary defensive player. Jones was too quick and too strong for McKinnie, who was a step slow on defense all night. He had wayward shooting numbers around the rim, although he did finish with three made 3s on four attempts.
- Other 905 player notes: Lorenzo Brown is improving at the skill that will land him in the NBA: playmaking. He finished with a game-high 13 assists and only 9 field goal attempts. Despite this progress, he did have a game-high 7 turnovers; he’s still working at learning how to take care of the ball, and Coach Stack stressed the importance of this both pre- and post- game. Change is hard, but Brown seems willing to work hard to make the necessary changes. The talent is there.
- Injury notes: Negus Webster-Chan (IT band) and Roger Moute a Bidias (knee) missed their seventh consecutive games. Webster-Chan is expected back within the week, and Moute a Bidias’ sprain is progressing well.
- Swarm notes: Jones and Cooke dominated. Not much else to it. Both are Pelicans’ two-way players, interestingly.
- The 905 are at home all weekend, with games on the 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.