Raptors 905 116, Westchester Knicks 95 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo (905), Ron Baker, Maurice Ndour, Marshall Plumlee (Knicks)
Two teams can look evenly matched for plays, quarters, or even games at a time. The longer they stay close, the more it seems the sides are of equal stature, or at least the right kind of foe for each other. Even if their records aren’t the same, two teams fighting punch for punch in back-to-back games certainly gives the impression that there isn’t a great deal of separation.
And then Brady Heslip happens, and there’s just no way to account for a matchup that has an enormous “unless the best shooter outside of the NBA catches fire” caveat.
Less than 24 hours ago, Raptors 905 and the Westchester Knicks played a game that came down to a tip-in at the final buzzer. The entire second half in that game was a tightly contested back-and-forth, with a battle of two strong defenses producing more offense than expected. A night later, this time in Westchester instead of Mississauga, the two sides opted to pick up exactly where they left off.
After E.J. Singler opened the scoring, Maurice Ndour responded, and the sides more or less went shot for shot from there. Over the course of the first half, the lead would change seven times, and while the 905 managed to extend it to six on a couple of occasions, they couldn’t sustain a run that would let them pull away. Instead, the sides played to a dead heat through a half at 46-46, one night after coming within an inch and a split second of requiring overtime. These two teams, it turns out, are a fair and interesting match.
If he had his way, Brady Heslip wouldn’t have allowed for such a tight game. The Canadian came out gunning from the outset, the controls of the offense in his hands with Fred VanVleet not on assignment, and he found a groove immediately. Heslip, who owns the D-League record with 13 threes in a game and who hit seven in a game earlier this year, hit four in the game’s first nine minutes, producing the bulk of the 905 offense himself. (Heslip had some help from Singler, with whom he;s developed a great chemistry in a dangerous two-man game. Singler as a screener creates tough decisions for the defense, and the 905 have gotten creative having him dive or post around Heslip, draw attention, and kick it back out. Two of Singler’s three first-half assists were on Heslip triples.)
The Knicks moved quickly to limit Heslip’s space and slow him down, and Heslip wouldn’t hit another three in the half. Chasson Randle played the Heslip role for the Knicks, dropping 16 in the half and forcing head coach Jerry Stackhouse to throw a couple of different looks at him, including the much longer Bruno Caboclo. Heslip cooling off for a moment and the defenses ratcheting up gummed things up a bit, and the two sides combined to shoot just 43.2 percent in the half a night after each hit better than 50 percent for the game.
Singler and Heslip reignited their two-man show going out of the half, with Singler hitting his second obscenely deep triple of the night, Heslip following with a corner triple in transition, and Edy Tavares lending a hand with blocks on back-to-back possessions. Caboclo then banked in a three to extend the lead to seven points, a game-high at that point, and the 905 were off.
More specifically, Heslip was off again. He’d wind up hitting six threes in the third quarter to give him 10 triples and 32 points entering the fourth, and the run it sent the 905 on may have actually been too big – with a 13-point lead, it was unclear if Heslip would get much further opportunity to gun for his own 3-point record or Norman Powell’s franchise-record in scoring (36).
The fourth essentially amounted to the Knicks trying to claw back, the 905 continuing to pull away, and those watching (likely) hoping the Knicks would come back just a little bit so that Stackhouse had cause to deploy the Burlington Turret once more. To their credit, the 905 kept their foot on the Knicks’ throats, handing them a rare embarrassment on their own court. Stackhouse opted to turn to Heslip up 24 with half a quarter to play, but he lasted just four minutes and missed his lone 3-point attempt before subbing back out to let the bench close it out. That meant Heslip was done at “just” five steals and 32 points on 10-of-14 from long-range, a virtuoso shooting performance that the Knicks really had no chance to slow once he got going.
For the team, this was a strong bounce-back from Thursday’s narrow loss and Tuesday’s blowout loss before it. The message Thursday was that a loss like that, especially after making a sizeable comeback, was a learning opportunity. The 905 didn’t get the chance to avenge the loss and apply those lessons in a close-out situation, but they unquestionably answered the call to stem a brief two-game losing streak, improving to 11-4 in the process. They’re good, Stackhouse has them recognizing that they can get better, and when Heslip shows why he’s on a short list of the best 3-point shooters on planet earth, they can look damn near unbeatable.
- Caboclo quietly turned in a solid performance. He hasn’t been dominant offensively by any stretch, but the 905 have been deploying him in something closer to his potential NBA role rather than making him a high-usage option. Caboclo’s responding well at the defensive end, has showed some mental growth by bouncing back from some slow starts, and on nights like this when his shot is dropping, he can be a major positive for the 905. He finished 6-of-11 for 13 points with four assists, three steals, and two blocks, and he continued to flash a smooth jab-step-and-fade move (Brazilian Dirk Nowizki). Consistency is the next frontier for Caboclo now that he’s proving steadier on the defensive end.
- Fred VanVleet, meanwhile, rejoined the Raptors today in Utah rather than traveling with the 905 to Westchester. That’s great for VanVleet, but it robbed us of a VanVleet-Baker Wichita St. showdown. Not only that, but we didn’t even get a three-flame celebration from Baker.
- Speaking of Knicks assignees, it’s always funny to me that there’s an endless pipeline of “M. Plumlee” for teams to pull from. I look forward to Duke senior McGillicutty Plumlee getting drafted 57th overall in 2028.
- In one of the more interesting moments of the young season, the 905 kicked a ball out of bounds with 0.3 seconds left on the clock in the first quarter. The kicked ball (a smart play with so little time left) went a few rows into the crowd, and it took officials a moment to get the ball back from the fans who caught it. The P.A. announcer then reminded fans that they can not keep a ball that leaves the field of play.
- The 905 are surely happy to escape Westchester with decent weather. A visit here last year resulted in a game being canceled, the team being snowed in for a night, and busses and cars being rented since they couldn’t fly.
- With the weather all clear, the team will be back in Mississauga to start a four-game holiday homestand on Tuesday. If you want to check any of those games out live, you can go to this link and use the promo code REPUBLIC905 all season long, as the 905 are hooking RR readers up with discounted tickets.