Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 97, Canton 102 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo (905), Caleb Swanigan [via Blazers] (Charge)
Two-ways: None (905), John Holland (Charge)
Raptors 905 have been here before. Team success breeds individual opportunity, and so with 11 wins in their last 13 games, the 905 have shown with some level of certainty that a few of their players might be able to help contribute to an NBA club. The Toronto Raptors have taken notice and, despite relative health on the main roster, opted to keep Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller, and Alfonzo McKinnie in Toronto while the 905 traveled to Canton as part of a two-game mini-road trip. These are challenging games, games the 905 struggled with when they got out to a 4-9 start. The hope – and belief – here is that with half a season for a very young roster to grow in more appropriate roles, the 905 are now more ready to play without NBA help, each player now better-suited to stepping into a larger spotlight.
That the 905 came up short in a 102-97 decision in a weekday road game is not cause for alarm. It was a growth game, through and through. It’s a contrast, to be sure, shortly after a 10-game winning streak. It’s an understandable, and perhaps necessary one, though, a sort of reset game for the second half.
Down three of their usual assignment pieces, the 905 looked to Bruno Caboclo and Kennedy Meeks early on as the only hold-overs in the starting lineup. Caboclo broke a 95-second two-way drought to start the game with a hook shot in the post, then hit another nice turnaround shortly after. In between, he found Meeks inside on a nice read, though he did miss a couple of shots, too. Even with the Caboclo-led attack, the 905 got out to a solid start, opening up a 9-4 lead before Canton charged out of a timeout with an 11-2 run. Already at that point, it was pretty clear that the 905 were going to have to hang in this on defense, as the drop-off in playmaking and individual shot-making ability without NBA talents like Brown, McKinnie, and Miller is stark.
And the defense wasn’t bad in the first quarter, though Canton did a nice job converting the opportunities the 905 did allow. The legaue’s fourth-worst offense, the Charge got a pair of 3-pointers from John Holland, a nice scoring boost from JaCorey Williams, and even an and-one from Kendrick Perkins to post 22 points in a slow-paced first quarter. Kaza Keane led a bench surge on the offensive end, scoring six points in four minutes by pushing the pace off of turnovers or in semi-transition after Canton misses, one of Keane’s biggest strengths. Davion Berry slid in to take a late-quarter charge, too, opening a window for Kuran Iverson to pull the 905 even at the end of the quarter.
That strong bench play carried over for the 905, in part thanks to some out-of-control play from Canton. Negus Webster-Chan got in on the charge-drawing act, Shevon Thompson had a massive block, and an 8-2 run that saw four different 905ers score gave them some control of the game. The 905 defense locked in, too, and the Charge eventually started shooting more like the Charge. Caleb Swanigan’s return saw Meeks come back opposite him, and the defensive pressure high in the pick-and-roll hounded Canton into turnovers. Holland lost a shoe at one point, Swanigan picked up an offensive foul in the ensuing scramble, and Webster-Chan canned a three to open up a game-high lead of eight.
Swanigan and Meeks then got locked into a fun tete-a-tete, trading buckets in the paint against each other. Swanigan got the edge in that battle, and the game settled back into the back-and-forth it started out as, the 905 run that traversed the quarter break effectively snuffed out. All told, there were seven lead changes and six ties in the first half, and each team led by three possessions at one point. Swanigan was a problem, finishing the half with a game-high 16 points, but 49-percent shooting and points from nine of the 10 players who played kept the 905 within four at the break.
Head coach Jerry Stackhouse switched things up to start the second half, starting Keane in place of Kethan Savage after the Carleton product was maybe the team’s best player in the first half. He responded by immediately diving on the floor to try to secure a backcourt steal, setting the tone for the defense out of the gate. The offense came more slowly, with Caboclo missing a turnaround jumper,, being whistled for an offensive foul, and then missing a three. It would take over five minutes for the 905 to get on the board in the third and seven minutes to hit a field goal, so even with a nice defensive effort, the Charge were able to slowly pull further and further ahead. There just wasn’t enough shot-making for the visitors, even on a day when their usual turnover issues weren’t a huge factor, no matter how Stackhouse mixed his lineups to try to get an offensive spark.
The 905 did eventually manage to push back, holding Canton scoreless for three minutes in the middle of the quarter to fuel a slow-rolling 11-0 run. That stretch, too, included points from four different 905 players, an affirmation that no individual was going to be able to take over the way Brown sometimes can when the offense stalls out. The assist numbers underlying that democracy of touches weren’t particularly impressive. Instead, the 905 were able to get into the paint by scattering the defense with Stackhouse’s drive-kick-swing, and Berry stepped up with an 11-point quarter to shrink what was once a 16-point hole to three entering the fourth.
The Charge briefly made it look like the 905 had made their run and that was it, the 905’s shooting inside and beyond the arc proving troublesome. The threes finally started dropping, with Caboclo and Webster-Chan hitting them back-to-back to drag the team to 30 percent to that point. They couldn’t quite get over that hump, with Perkins having a monster game by his standards, Marcus Thornston getting hot, and Kevin Olekaibe putting them back ahead by double-digits with a big three. Stackhouse looked to close with Keane, Berry, and Webster-Chan all on the floor to try to inject some ball-handling and spacing, which helped open up a bit of space inside for Meeks to shake off an uncharacteristically quiet night to that point. Thornton, though, nailed three threes in a row, the last coming with a Berry foul for a four-point play, and the 905 were up against the clock at that point, once again stuck 12.
Stackhouse has to be pleased with how they responded from there, even in coming up short. Berry got to the line, Meeks finished a Webster-Chan feed, and then Berry and Webster-Chan connected on threes, making for a quick 10-2 run to get within two possessions with two minutes to play. The hot 3-point shooting probably wasn’t going to last forever, and the red-hot Berry and Caboclo missed consecutive looks around a pair of shooting fouls and a tough transition turnover. Keane managed to get to the free-thrown line after Stackhouse used his advance, and with the Charge going 4-of-8 at the free-throw line in the fouling situation, the 905 were able to cling to life. They made life tougher on themselves, with Caboclo losing a defensive rebound and then Roosevelt Jones grabbing an offensive rebound. A late, tough Berry three just wasn’t enough, and Canton escaped with the victory.
The 905 will surely be disappointed to have given themselves so many chances late only to come up short, but this was a big development game for the team. It’s been a while since they were this light on assignees, and the expanded reps here for the depth pieces will be valuable come playoff time, and/or in the event the Raptors need reinforcements like this more regularly in the second half. Given the run they’ve been on, a small step back in the win column that helps solidify their floor for later seems worthwhile, even if a win in such a scenario was right there for the taking.
- Assignment notes
- Bruno Caboclo had a tough one here. His shot wasn’t falling (2-of-7 on threes, 4-of-13 overall), he seemed unhappy with the whistle he was getting, he wound up in foul trouble late, and while the effort was still there, it wasn’t his sharpest defensive outing. He finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, and a whopping -20 in 28 minutes. Coming off of a really nice showing in the final G League Showcase game, with a big opportunity to play a more featured role, this was a bit disappointing. The inconsistency remains a part of it. Stackhouse is still quite optimistic.
- Alfonzo McKinnie is with the Raptors.
- Other 905 player notes
- Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller are with the Raptors.
- Davion Berry was excellent here, playing the role of go-to scorer and really being the only player who looked comfortable putting more on his shoulders. Which makes sense, given he’s the team’s most experience player. He finished with 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting…Kaza Keane had a really nice first half but struggled to score in the second half. He was the team’s best playmaker on the day, finishing with 12 points and six assists…Negus Webster-Chan played his biggest role in some time, hitting four threes with a team-high plus-20 mark…Kennedy Meeks had 10 points but only three rebounds, a season low.
- Charge notes: Marcus Thronton got hot in a hurry, sinking the Raptors with 27 points on 22 used possessions. Caleb Swanigan had a great first half but quieted down, finishing with 18-10-3…Roosevelt Jones is a great glue-guy at this level…Kendrick Perkins had 11 points. Timeless.
- The 905 have one more roadie before returning home Jan. 22. A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.