Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 111, Texas Legends 100 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo, (905), None (Legends)
Two-ways: Malcolm Miller (905), Wade Baldwin [via Blazers] (Legends)
Raptors 905 have not been playing particularly great basketball the last few weeks. They also haven’t been all that bad, or at least not nearly as bad as a four-game losing streak and seven losses in eight games might suggest. Head coach Jerry Stackhouse still had his charges defending at a top-five level, and while they were still figuring out how to create offense with Lorenzo Brown spending time with the parent club Raptors, they seemed to be making progress.
Wednesday was probably equal parts affirming and cathartic, with the 905 turning in a strong two-way performance to top a solid Texas Legends team 111-100 and get back in the win column.
The first game back at Hershey Centre in over two weeks seemed to bring a modicum of comfort for the 905, who had one of their best starts of the season offensively. An All-Canadian backcourt of Aaron Best and Kaza Keane proved complementary with Keane as the attacker and Best spacing out, and the presence of Kennedy Meeks inside spread Texas’ focus across the entire floor. Bruno Caboclo got out to a hot start, too, nailing a triple and then taking a defensive rebound coast-to-coast with a Euro-step finish. Early foul trouble for Caboclo saw Fuquan Edwin make an early debut for the team, and the 3-and-D addition looked a little overeager out of the gate.
The Legends picked up the scoring on their side from there, with Wade Baldwin coming off the bench to provide a one-two punch with veteran hand Justin Dentmon. The early pace slowed some as the introduction of reserves saw the sides trade offensive fouls and turnovers, and the 905 had to go to a third center early due to a pair of whistles on Shevon Thompson. It all made for a quarter that looked a little unfamiliar for a 905 team that’s been mostly defense in the first six weeks of the season – the home side shot 46 percent and allowed Texas to shoot 50 percent, good for a 29-26 Legends edge through one frame.
The second quarter belongs to Malcolm Miller, who opened things up with a nice finish in transition and then destroyed a J.J. Avila layup attempt the other way. Edwin got in on the act with a tough bucket and a foul, and the 905 stuck four consecutive jumpers and a hook shot from there to take the lead back. The game settled into a fun back-and-forth from there, though the 905 (and Caboclo in particular) still had difficulty with the whistle, and that allowed Texas to at least flirt with the idea of pulling away. Negus Webster-Chan came through with a big momentum-killing three, and Keane closed out the half as strong as he started it to keep the 905 within four at the break.
The 905 wrestled control away in the third, with Miller and Caboclo teaming up for a 14-2 run to grab their largest lead of the game at eight. Turnover issues, a regular problem for the 905 this season, crept back in, but Texas was plagued by the same thing, leading to Caboclo throwing down a one-handed hammer to force a Legends timeout. The 905 continued moving the ball exceptionally well, with Keane reaching double-digit assists, the team staying uncharacteristically warm from outside, and some smart crashes on the offensive glass extending possessions. The defense wasn’t all the way where they like it outside of Thompson’s rim-protection efforts, and as Caboclo cooled off just a little at the end of a 13-point quarter and Kyle Collinsworth pushed toward a triple-double, Texas managed to pull within one heading into the fourth.
The Legends continued that push, quickly taking a four-point lead back. When the 905 forced consecutive turnovers sandwiched around a Kuran Iverson put-back dunk, it set the tone for what would be a tight closing 10 minutes. Miller pushed to his season-high in points (which is still no reason to call him “M&M,” guys), Keane hit Best for the elusive Carleton-Ryerson alley-oop connetion, and a big Caboclo offensive rebound stretched the gap back to eight. Other than Texas living at the free-throw line, the 905 controlled most areas of the game, and even with the team-wide foul problems, head coach Jerry Stackhouse had everyone available to him. That really helped the defensive intensity level pick up, with the Legends, an above-average offensive team, scoring 11 points over the first nine minutes of the quarter.
That left Texas scrambling to make up a lot of ground in the final minutes, and the 905 slowed things down and fed Thompson inside to chew clock, making him their sixth scorer in double-figures. The lead pushed as high as 12, Texas responded, and Miller more or less ended things with a shot-clock beating mid-range bank-shot that he probably didn’t want to take. The Legends were out of time at that point, their 23.8-percent shooting in the fourth precluding them from making up any ground.
The 905 needed this. Stackhouse has remained mostly calm and steadfast in the principles the team wants to play by, and wins always help in the teaching process. Securing a victory without Brown or Alfonzo McKinnie should be a confidence booster for the G League regulars on the team, too, players who have had their roles bounce all over the place by nature of the job and showed here that the team can win with less help. Caboclo and Miller turning in excellent games helps too, of course, and the 905 will probably have both more often than not for the next while, possibly letting them build some momentum from here.
- Assignment notes
- Bruno Caboclo’s second half was maybe his best of the season. A non-factor due to foul trouble in the first half, Caboclo still managed to finish with 24 points in 26 minutes, adding 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal. His 3-point shot continues to betray him (2-of-10), but his inside game was strong here, and he was a major factor defensively. He finished a plus-15, too.
- Other 905 player notes
- Malcolm Miller likewise looked better than he has all year. Fresh off the road from a stretch with the Raptors, Miller scored a season-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, added six rebounds, four assists, and two blocks, and was a plus-16 in 38 minutes. It’s maybe the 38 minutes that’s most impressive, as it looks like Miller’s injury and the slow ramping up of his workload is firmly behind him. Really encouraging game.
- Kaza Keane was terrific again. Really, he’s been the breakout star on the team. I knew he’d be a defensive pest and a nice presence pushing the tempo in his transition, but the speed of his growth as a playmaker in a lead-guard role has surpassed expectations. He was a rebound shy of a triple-double here, scoring 13 points with nine rebounds and a franchise-record 15 assists…Fuquan Edwin struggled from the floor (3-of-12) in his debut with the team, forcing things a little bit. Defensively, he came as advertised, and when he nails down his role in the team’s system, he’s going to fit right in with the identity here.
- Davion Berry sat this game out, as he’s been suspended by the team for two games for violating a team policy. Everyone is staying pretty tight-lipped about what, specifically, the violation was, and it doesn’t really seem worthwhile to dig too deeply into it…Negus Webster-Chan still isn’t at 100 percent and remains on a minutes restriction.
- Legends notes: Wade Baldwin, on loan from Portland, had a pretty shaky showing, shooting 3-of-15 and only dishing four assists in 30 minutes…Kyle Collinsworth finished an assist shy of a triple-double…former D-League MVP Justin Dentmon is still doing his thing down here and is as close to a G League legend as it comes, non-Vander Blue division.
- The 905 now hit the road for two over the weekend before returning to Hershey Centre on Dec. 18. A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.
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