Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 119, Grand Rapids Drive 83 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo, Alfonzo McKinnie (905), None (Drive)
Two-ways: Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller (inj) (905), Dwight Buycks (inj) (Drive)
“I’m getting 30.”
It seemed an innocuous enough comment before the game, a post-warmup revelation of confidence or perhaps an attempt to increase it in combat of fatigue. It could have been any number of players, based on their play, though the person who uttered it decline to have their prediction on the record.
It could have been Alfonzo McKinnie, who didn’t land in Toronto until about 2 a.m., joining Raptors 905 on Sunday morning following a three-game road-trip with the Toronto Raptors that saw him help close out a blowout victory in Atlanta the night prior. It could have been Bruno Caboclo, who was well more than halfway to that number by the end of the first half. It could have been Shevon Thompson, who scored 20 in his debut the day prior, or Davion Berry, who’s already gone for 20 three times this year. In reality, what was important was not any prediction but the air of confidence about the 905 following three tough losses, on the second day of a back-to-back and showing no signs of mental or physical fatigue.
McKinnie scored 11 points in the first quarter, hitting a pair of threes, driving to the rim for an and-one, dished an assist, and playing infectiously active defense at the other end. The energy proved team-wide early, with the 905 getting out to their best start in some time. Looking to snap the mini-losing streak and fueled by the McKinnie (and Lorenzo Brown) reinforcement, the 905 got up by nine early on, their largest lead since Nov. 8. Caboclo chipped in seven points early, Malcolm Miller brought a great spark off the bench with a silky catch-and-shoot three and a massive block in transition, and Andre Washington closed the quarter out with an emphatic dunk on a hand-off to take a 27-20 lead into the second.
“Good to get those guys back,” head coach Jerry Stackhouse said of the assignments and two-ways. “Obviously, our talent level goes up when we have those guys. But it was more the execution of the gameplan that was the key. ”
Grand Rapids made a nice push from there, attacking the offensive glass with former 905 tryout Zeke Marshall, who looks much improved. Washington and Shevon Thompson had a handful of nice defensive plays opposite him and an attacking Speedy Smith, Davion Berry continued his hot weekend, and Caboclo stroked a corner three to help keep the Drive at arm’s length. Caboclo hit another out of a Grand Rapids timeout to push the lead to 15, the 905 firmly on the opposite side of where they’ve found themselves in both wins and losses lately. The Raptors’ fourth-year forward would push his first-half point total to 19 by the end of the quarter, playing a major part in the 56-39 halftime edge.
To their credit, the Drive fought out of the break, briefly getting a little warmer than their 41-percent first half and threatening to take the game back into single-digits. McKinnie got right back into a flow, taking over again with a massive block and a triple, then a pair of twos. Landry Nnoko kept the Drive close with some strong work inside, then nearly brought things to a screeching halt as he and Washington had to be pulled apart from a shoving match. (Washington received a flagrant foul, and Washington and Smith were each assessed a technical.) The 905 held steady even as they went back to the bench, a bigger hybrid look stymying the Drive inside without sacrificing the transition game the other way. Some of the 905’s bigger lineups of late have flashed some real potential, and the addition of Thompson has given Stackhouse another piece to play through inside and protect the rim to build those groups around.
“Going back and watching the film, our whole focus was on us today,” Stackhouse said. “We didn’t look at one edit from Grand Rapids, didn’t look at none of their sets, didn’t look at anything they did. When we come out and we dictate and execute our schemes and how we wanna play defense and how we wanna share the ball offensively, as you see, things kinda take care of themselves.”
Sensing the chance to pull away and avoid any late-game slippage, the 905 came out hard in the fourth, quickly pushing their lead beyond 20 and sending Grand Rapids to a quick timeout to try to salvage any remaining window. Marshall answered the call only for Thompson to get the basket right back against him. An Aaron Best lob to Kethan Savage and a missed Jamel Morris layup on a great cut probably extinguished any remaining comeback potential, and a beautiful Caboclo turnaround in the post poured water on the embers.
An overturned call in favor of the home side led to a foul on Caboclo that made it a 30-point game, and the only questions from there were just how large the final gap would grow and whether the player in question – or any player -would actually reach the 30-point marker. The answers, in order: 36, and no, though Caboclo’s 27 marked a season-high and were only four off his career-high.
“Bruno was huge for us,” Stackhouse said. “He didn’t shoot it as well as he could. Some of those looks I thought were going down for him. But those are the ones we want him to continue to take. I thought defensively, he was engaged.”
The 905 finished the game shooting 54 percent with just 11 turnovers and holding Grand Rapids to 39 percent, a strong showing at both ends and the kind of two-way performance Stackhouse has been telling the players would come if they stayed the course.
“”I look down, holding a team to under 40 percent, 22 percent from three. More like the numbers I like to see,” Stackhouse said. “Turnovers, our ball security was really good, too. So we were able to get looks at the rim and conversely, we shot the ball pretty well ourselves.”
There was a great moment late, too, where Washington was feeling himself a bit after a late bucket and mugged to his own bench, leading Miller and Richard Amardi to stand up laughing and Stackhouse to shake his head with a smirk. It’s the type of thing that’s bound to happen in a blowout, and for a team that’s been hanging their heads at the end of games for a week now, it felt like some much needed catharsis to cap off a resounding and pressure-relieving victory.
How’s that for symmetry with the parent club?
- Assignment notes
- Bruno Caboclo finished with 27 points on just 16 field-goal attempts and was a factor defensively, playing his more natural forward position instead of masquerading as a center. Coming off of his two worst outings of what’s been a mostly good start to the season, it was nice to see him have a major two-way impact and put those games behind him. He added six rebounds and three blocks and was a plus-25.
- Alfonzo McKinnie was really terrific here, and has really found a comfort zone whenever he comes down. He was maybe a little over-aggressive shooting after his hot start, but that’s hard to fault him for when shots are dropping on a team that’s often been in need of offensive punch. He finished with 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting, hit three threes, and added seven rebounds. With the Raptors schedule turning easier from here, it would be nice to see him get some more garbage-time run.
- Other 905 player notes
- Lorenzo Brown has been dealing with some left ankle soreness and, given he’s a fringe piece of the Raptors’ rotation right now, the 905 watched his minutes closely here. He had 13 points and eight assists in 24 minutes…Davion Berry continues to provide a nice offensive spark, scoring in double-figures for the eighth time in nine games. He’s averaging 14.2 points despite cold outside shooting…Shevon Thompson had 13-and-10 and has really fit in quickly in his first two appearances. He was a team-best plus-33 in 34 minutes…Kethan Savage had probably his best game of the year.
- Negus Webster-Chan (IT band) and Roger Moute a Bidias (knee) missed their ninth consecutive games. Richard Amardi sat with an ankle sprain he suffered in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game.
- Drive notes: Luis Montero remained with the Pistons and Dwight Buycks was inactive, so the Drive had zero two-ways or assignees here…Zeke Marshall and Landry Nnoko both had nice games doing work inside, and Derek Willis had a few explosive plays, but otherwise it was fairly apparent that this was a team down both of its two-ways and without assignees.
- The 905 are away from Hershey Centre for a while now. They’ve got two on the road, an Air Canada Centre home game on Dec. 5, and then another road game before they’re back in Mississauga (Dec. 13). A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.