Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 123, Windy City Bulls 105 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo, Alfonzo McKinnie (905), None (Bulls)
Two-ways: Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller (905), Antonio Blakeney (Bulls)
Raptors 905 wanted to carry the momentum of a strong stretch of play back home, with three games at Hershey Centre in short order around the new year and the G League Showcase on the horizon. Consider their 48-minute drubbing of the Windy City Bulls on Saturday a statement exactly to that effect.
The focus right out of the gate was on stopping Antonio Blakeney, with head coach Jerry Stackhouse changing up his starting lineup to get his best perimeter defender, Aaron Best, opposite him. Blakeney came in averaging 35.6 points on 63-percent true-shooting, and their strategy early involved trying to keep him at bay, forcing him to work in the mid-range if he was going to work at all. Blakeney still got his, as someone averaging 36 points is wont to do, but Best and the 905 length around him made it difficult – Blakeney finished the first quarter with eight points on 12 possessions used, and his Bulls teammates couldn’t pick him up, shooting just 36 percent.
“I thought our starters came out and gave us a good start,” Stackhouse said. “Bruno, all those guys, Alfonzo, Kennedy, they set the tone and then the bench came in and picked it up as well. When you’ve got those kinda contributions across the board, then you’ve got nights like tonight.”
Blakeney did nearly end Alfonzo McKinnie with a dunk, but McKinnie got it right back with an offensive rebound at the other end. Offensive rebounds were a big part of the 905 diet in general early on, as Bruno Caboclo had a pair of tough ones and the team as a whole scored _ second-chance points in the quarter. Those were enough that despite shooting 42 percent from the floor, a Malcolm Miller corner three had them up 26-19 after a frame.
Miller got the second going from outside, too, drawing a foul on a deep transition attempt. Kaza Keane followed it with one of his own (after a sweet dump-off to Shevon Thompson two plays earlier), the team’s ball movement continually getting Windy City scrambling and creating clean looks. Were it a strong outside shooting night for the team, they may have run away with things early. As it was, some of those good looks didn’t drop, and Windy City hung around within striking distance as a result. Miller had a small stretch of dominance, Davion Berry added to the bench offense to shake off a mini-slump, and a personal Kennedy Meeks run pushed the lead to a game-high 13 late in the half. Blakeney had something to stay about that, scoring nine more in this quarter to make it a seven-point game at the break.
The 905 came out looking like they wanted to wrap this up promptly, it being the first of three games in four days and all. It was McKinnie’s turn to go to work on offense, nailing a corner three with confidence and following it with an and-one on a post-up. Lorenzo Brown had a chasedown block during a pull-away sequence, too, leading to a funny exchange where one referee overturned another’s call and Stackhouse loudly questioned the decision.
lolllll "Now you look ready" as a follow-up, I;m dying
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 30, 2017
The offense kicked into an even higher gear from there, the infectious ball movement opening up more good looks and stretching the Bulls too far in every direction. Consecutive threes from Miller and Berry gave the 905 a 25-point cushion that seemed somewhere close to insurmountable, and the 43 points they’d finish the third quarter with matched a season high. To that point, all 10 players to play had at least four points, eight had at least one assist, and they all had a plus-minus of plus-10 or better.
“I thought for the most part our guys were locked in, moved the ball, shared the ball, probably one of the best quarters you’ll see in the G League,” Stackhouse said.
That feeling that the game was over with 12 minutes still to go seemed to set in for Windy City, too. They made a brief attempt at a push-back, won a coach’s challenge about a minute into the fourth, and then conceded defeat shortly after. That meant sitting Blakeney down with 27 points on 29 possessions, a job well done by the 905. The 905 would eventually empty out their bench, too, getting Andrew Washington, Kethan Savage, and Kuran Iverson five minutes of important tune-up time in a tight chunk of schedule and with the G League Showcase, where they figure to play more, around the corner.
All told, the 905 shot 51 percent for the game, hit 13-of-33 on threes, dished 33 assists to just 12 turnovers, and pulled in 16 offensive rebounds. Non-Blakeney Bulls, meanwhile, shot 50 percent but did most of their damage in a low-leverage fourth quarter, making for a pretty thoroughly dominant two-way performance, one that saw them lead pretty much from buzzer to buzzer. This kind of win has become more commonplace for the 905 of late, with the strong defense they showed in a 5-10 start to the year now being met by improved offensive execution and a better sense of how to control and close-out games.
“I tell people all the time, some things just take time. As much as you wanna try to prod ’em and beat it into ’em and yell at ’em and do all those things, sometimes just their reps is what’s gonna get them to the level of where they are now,” Stackhouse said. “And we’re gonna get better. We haven’t arrived at all. I think there’s still another level or two or three of where we can go.”
The 905 have now won five in a row to get back to .500, they’ve won six of seven overall, and they have two more home games over the next three to push themselves further back into the playoff picture by the mid-way point of the season.
- Assignment notes
- Bruno Caboclo started and finished his 21 minutes of action strong in this one, quickly putting up a 15-point, eight-rebound game and getting to watch from the bench with the other starters for the entirety of the fourth quarter. He shot 6-of-12 overall and 3-of-7 on threes, pushing his season-long 3-point percentage to a career-best 33.8 percent. That still needs to improve, but it’s encouraging that it’s once again trending in the right direction after a cold spell.
- Alfonzo McKinnie had a fairly quiet night by his standards. He had 11 points and six rebounds in his 21 minutes, shooting 5-of-10. He had a corner three turned into a long corner-two upon review, just the third time in 11 games this year that he’s gone without a 3-pointer in a game (he’s at 40 percent on threes for the year).
- Neither assignee is expected to be with the 905 for the G League Showcase next month. The 905 have preferred to give that opportunity to their regular G Leaguers the last two years, and that will continue this year.
- Lucas Nogueira was in attendance to support.
- Other 905 player notes
- Lorenzo Brown had an easy double-double with 14 points and 10 assists in 23 minutes. Most notably, he only committed one turnover and now has just two in his last 55 minutes after committing 10 in a game last week. He’s really too savvy for this league, able to get to the rim more or less when he chooses.
- Malcolm Miller shot 3-of-7 on threes on his way to a 15-4-4 night in just 22 minutes. It’s the second game in a row in which he’s dished four dimes and the fifth time this year he’s had three or more, great progress for a potential 3-and-D player who’s shown more comfort putting it on the floor and making the next pass.
- Kennedy Meeks played maybe the best defensive game I’ve seen him play yet. He also had 13 points, eight rebounds, and two assists in his 22 minutes…Aaron Best did an admirable job on the G League’s hottest scorer and added eight points for good measure…Eight different 905ers scored in double-digits, nine different players had assists, 12 of the 13 who played scored, and nine players finished plus-10 or better.
- Negus Webster-Chan continues to sit with a knee/IT band issue that just won’t seem to heal.
- Bulls notes: Blakeney can really get any shot he wants, and it’s telling that he still got 27 in a game the 905 did a good job on him…Windsor native and Raptors Summer Leaguer Mychal Mulder scored 14 points…Brandon Wood had 22 points…Derick Newton was somehow a plus-13 in 17 minutes when every other Bull was a -8 or worse and the team lost by 19.
- The 905 are home again tomorrow and Tuesday. A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.