Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 113, Fort Wayne 95 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo (905), None (Mad Ants)
Two-ways: Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller (905), Edmond Sumner (Mad Ants)
There are occasional G League games where it’s plenty obvious it’s a G League game. That’s not a criticism – the league’s quirks are often endearing, the combination of smaller arenas, odd start times, and tenuous roster stability conspiring to create an environment that’s drastically different from it’s NBA counterpart. It’s what makes the G League what it is, and it’s awesome.
On Monday, Raptors 905 and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants played a game marked by some of those curiosities. The game took three opening tips to get started, for example. Fort Wayne subbed a player out after two fouls and then immediately subbed him back in when they realized he only had one. At one point, there was a double lane violation that led to a jump ball.
Lorenzo Brown did not fit the atmosphere. Nor, eventually, did the rest of his 905 teammates. Together, they pulled away from the second quarter onward, defeating Fort Wayne 113-95 and getting all 12 players involved, the starters taking care of business as they should and the bench closing things out so the starters got to call it an evening early.
The 905 were moving the ball well out of the gate, getting into the Fort Wayne paint and spraying to the weak side. That got Aaron Best a pair of early corner threes he split, and as the Mad Ants tried to find that proper balance, it opened up the mid-range for Brown and a driving lane for Bruno Caboclo to take it to the rim with his left hand for a flush. Caboclo was working early on the offensive glass, too, and Kennedy Meeks took care of the scoring inside. Uncharacteristically, it was the 905 defense that wasn’t there early on, particularly with respect to DeQuan Jones. It surely wasn’t as reductive as this, but the 905 almost seemed willing to concede other spots on the court so long as Jarrod Uthoff couldn’t get going – Uthoff started the game 0-of-6 but had a pair of assists and an offensive rebound, and his teammates shot well around him.
The Mad Ants were able to build an early seven-point lead thanks to that early offense, after which a Caboclo-and-bench unit started to put the clamps down. Fort Wayne would go over three minutes without scoring, allowing the 905 to slowly close that gap. And I mean slowly. Caboclo misfired on what would have been a big transition alley-oop, Kaza Keane got blocked on a drive, and Caboclo missed a three, leaving the offense to Shevon Thompson on clean-ups in the paint. A combined 36.7-percent shooting mark for the two teams undersold the offense a bit since Fort Wayne feasted off of turnovers and the 905 on second-chance points, the Mad Ants holding a 23-21 edge after a quarter.
Thompson continued his strong offensive play into the second quarter, and it was a necessary boost as Walter Lemon Jr. got cooking on the other side, ripping to the rim for a few tasty finishes. Uthoff finally got on the board, too, once again due to Fort Wayne’s ability to push off of 905 miscues or misses. The 905 defense was still doing a good job of getting hands in lanes and picking up high to force turnovers or deny clock time, keeping things close for the starters as they filtered back in. Thompson got an extended nod with that group and turned away a baseline jumper, and that look had some moderate success. The 905’s earlier focus on Uthoff bled over to the defensive end, and he was on the wrong side of an aggressive stretch from Brown. Meeks’ return helped sustain the momentum and a massive edge on the glass, and they pulled ahead double-digits before Uthoff cut the lead to seven right before the buzzer.
The 905 looked to take control out of the break, with Meeks, Brown, and Best all connecting in short order to pull the 905 out to their biggest lead of the game to that point. Jones and Lemon were just about all the Mad Ants had going, and even they were met by some pretty strong defense, particularly from Best. Brown then went into his nightly “guys, really, I know you have obscene point guard depth in the NBA, but I’m too good for the G League” routine, taking over on multiple fronts, getting to the rim at ease or pulling up with difficult floaters, hitting the glass, and making excellent decisions. He had 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists in the quarter on his way to a 29-8-9 line that likely would have been his second triple-double of the year if his teammates faltered. His play kept Fort Wayne at arm’s length, and he never got the chance to reach the market, the third time this year he’s had at least 8-8-8 but missed the triple-double. The only negative during the quarter was an apparent rolled ankle for Meeks. Otherwise, it was all good – and all Brown – as the 905 built a 15-point lead to take into the fourth.
The Mad Ants really didn’t have much answer, even against the 905 bench. The rebounding disparity remained insurmountable, with the 905 doubling them up for most of the game, corralling 40 percent of opportunities on the offensive glass and surrendering just 24 percent on the other side, most of those in garbage time. Thompson did a lot of that feasting in the paint, but it was really a concerted team effort to take advantage of a small Mad Ants frontcourt – nine 905ers had an offensive rebound and five had more than one. The bench’s defense was terrific before the boards went up, too, with the second unit impressing as Fort Wayne pushed to try to make it something of a game in the fourth. Kethan Savage and Kuran Iverson both got an extended opportunity to show their defensive chops, and Iverson even stepped out to hit a three that had the bench exploding and Meeks dancing.
It was a decisive stint for an all-bench unit that pretty much put the game away. Midway through the quarter, when head coach Jerry Stackhouse would normally begin bringing starters back in, the lead had swelled to 24, the 905 already past the 100-point marker. That gave everyone a chance to get their spots in, and the 905 would finish with 11 of 12 players who played on the board, eight of whom also dished assists. Andre Washington, the last man on the bench, received five minutes of run, too, immediately blocking a pair of shots and kick-starting Fuquan Edwin in transition as part of his fourth double-digit scoring night of the year.
These games are always great for confidence building. The 905, who followed a 10-game winning streak with back-to-back losses, have won two in a row again, and in this one, they blew out a division-leading team. They’re certain that they’re a threat in the playoffs. What these games also help for is preparation for the games ahead when the role players here will be called on for more. The Raptors might need Brown or Malcolm Miller at some point, and Keane, Meeks, and Best could all be headed for FIBA duty in February. By taking care of business early and emphatically, the 905 got additional reps for their developing depth pieces, and in that sense this win may end up counting for more down the line.
If nothing else, it was a heck of a statement against a quality team as the 905 move to second in the Eastern Conference in record and gain some separation for the top wild-card spot.
- Assignment notes
- Bruno Caboclo was a force on the glass, hauling in 13 rebounds in 24 minutes. This is an area where he’s been inconsistent, but it was clearly a focus here, and he’s up to 6.6 rebounds per-game on the year now. He also dished three assists, blocked two shots, and had a great drive left through the lane for a dunk, his favorite play but one that isn’t successful all that often. He only had seven points (1-of-4 on threes), though that undersells his impact in another strong defensive showing where he contributed everywhere else on the box score. Still, it’d be nice to see the threes drop.
- Alfonzo McKinnie is with the Raptors.
- Other 905 player notes
- Lorenzo Brown might legitimately be the best all-around player in the G League. Yes, he’s one of the most experienced and is among the older two-way players out there. It doesn’t make it less of a fact. He’s doing a great job balancing the need to score and getting others involved, and even if he still turns the ball over on the higher end, it’s because it’s always in his hands – he has a very rare combination of usage rate and assist rate, leading the G League in the latter. If he’s down here for the playoffs, the 905 can make noise.
- Malcolm Miller had a quiet night, taking just three shots in 27 minutes. Like Caboclo, his impact was felt on the defensive end and on the glass – he grabbed eight rebounds and was a plus-13 in 27 minutes. He also recorded two assists as he continues to show juice as a guy who can attack a closeout and make the right play.
- Kennedy Meeks had 15 points in 17 minutes…Shevon Thompson finished with 14 points, four blocks, and five rebounds in 19 minutes, shooting 7-of-8…Aaron Best was terrific defensively and added 11 points…Kaza Keane dished eight assists and is among the league’s leaders in assist rate now…Davion Berry sat due to illness.
- Mad Ants notes: Jarrod Uthoff finished 2-of-13 for five points, eight rebounds, and two assists. It was underwhelming…Walter Lemon Jr. scored 22 on 19 possessions, nice work against a tough defense…DeQuan Jones similarly had 29 on 24…C.J. Fair no longer has Bruno Caboclo’s number.
- Rowan Barrett was on the broadcast in the second quarter, which was interesting. He understandably didn’t want to talk a ton about his son R.J. Barrett beyond expressing excitement Duke has the top three prospects in the 2018 recruiting class. He was at the game in a Canada Basketball capacity, taking a look at Aaron Best and Kaza Keane ahead of FIBA qualifiers in February. 905 assistant Nathaniel Mitchell is also a member of the national team coaching staff.
- The 905 hit the road for a Wednesday morning game in Delaware before returning home Saturday afternoon. A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.