Photo credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 97, Delaware 87ers 84 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo (905), None (87ers)
Two-ways: Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller (905), Devin Robinson [via Wizards] (87ers)
Consider an early loss to the Delaware 87ers effectively expunged for Raptors 905.
It’s hard to evaluate rematches in the G League, where so much could have changed between meetings. When the two sides first met in late November, neither was where they hoped to be – the 905 were still figuring things out before their eventual turnaround, and the 87ers left Hershey Centre with just their first win of the season. The next meeting saw a streaking 905 team dismantle Delaware on the road before the 87ers received a mid-season infusion of talent. Wednesday morning’s rubber match saw both teams in better shape, in the macro sense, than their earlier meetings, the 905 looking to continue to push toward the Eastern Conference’s best record and the 87ers trying to gather momentum for a playoff push in a weak division, armed with some extra help.
The 905 looked the better team here in leg one of a double-header in Philadelphia, showing off their elite team defense in the second half on their way to a 97-84 victory.
Both sides were dealing with a shorthanded roster here, though, the 905 down starting center Kennedy Meeks due to an ankle injury and the 87ers without two-way players Demetrius Jackson and James Young. The 87ers have thrived on heavy turnover of late, and they did better with the unfamiliarity early on. Relatively new piece Askia Booker took the scoring load on his shoulders, leading the way with 10 first-quarter points on perfect shooting, and Delaware as a team shot 10-of-21 with four threes. That’s unusual for the 905 defense, who still managed to keep Washington Wizards’ two-way piece Devin Robinson in check and force a plethora of turnovers to kick-start their offense. Meeks’ absence was felt inside, as the league’s best defensive rebounding team surrendered three offensive rebounds, although they all came on one sequence that results in an Emeks Okafor tip-in.
Otherwise, Andre Washington and Shevon Thompson did well handling the center duties. Thompson grabbed two early offensive rebounds himself, and Bruno Caboclo continued his strong rebounding work of late to help out on the defensive side. Caboclo also hit a pair of early threes, the only 905er to find the mark from outside. Those were important buckets, too, because Lorenzo Brown got out to a cold 1-of-7 start and it wasn’t until the bench began filtering in that the 905 could get much going on the offensive end.
An 8-of-22 quarter had them behind five, a gap they’d work to close quickly by putting the clamps on with an all-bench unit to start the second quarter. Fuquan Edwin took over the scoring responsibility during those minutes, scoring six points in a hurry, and when Brown returned, he shifted his focus to more of a playmaking role. The team’s shooting struggles persisted, and Delaware eventually found their footing on offense again, highlighted by a tremendous pass from Robinson to a cutting Darin Johnson and a nice Shawn Long finish. The 905 continued leaning on their strength forcing turnovers to fuel their performance at both ends, and Brown getting on the board from long-range helped keep the 87ers from pulling away too far.
Booker was finally slowed down by a charging call – he nearly had a perfect 17-point first-half box score line except for four turnovers and a missed free throw – and Jerry Stackhouse had his charges press late in the half, though it resulted in a foul. Brown’s usually seamless Euro-step mis-fired, and even when Booker finally missed his first shot of the night, Brown couldn’t get a late-clock attempt to fall. It was an odd half in that respect, as Brown shot 2-of-14 but the 905 offense wasn’t entirely sunk (non-Brown 905ers shot 50 percent), as usually the offense goes as he goes. Meanwhile, the 905 defense did a nice job on everyone except Booker and maybe Long, forced a lot of turnovers, and struggled to clean up the glass. It wasn’t certainly an outlier for hos 905 games normally unfold, and while Stackhouse was probably disappointed his team had yet to take control, only trailing by four at the break was a good outcome, all things considered.
Thompson drew the start in place of Washington for the second half, a common Stackhouse wrinkle when a primary center is out in order to help prevent first-half foul trouble and maximize second-half rotations. That look worked emphatically, with the 905 going on an early 9-0 run capped by a nice Caboclo pull-up attacking the paint to give the 905 their first three-point lead of the game. Robinson answered with a personal mini-run, Booker got back to work, and some pristine off-ball movement from the 87ers persisted. Brown continued to be off from mid-range but Thompson picked him up on the glass and at the line, buying some offense until Brown could finally get back to the line. Robinson tried to prevent the 905 from gaining control with a huge put-back dunk, only for the 905 to take a two-point lead into the fourth anyway, punctuated by Caboclo coming up with a steal and taking it the distance for a one-handed flush.
A different looking all-bench unit (with Washington in place of Thompson) got the call at the top of the fourth, led by Kaza Keane getting into the paint and facilitating from there. Washington offered some nice rim protection, Edwin hit a three, and despite giving up far too many second chances, the 905 kept the 87ers from converting, forcing a number of turnovers and errant jumpers. Thompson returned and picked up where he left off inside, then stepped into the mid-range to draw a face-up foul, putting the 905 up double-digits for the first time. Edwin nearly delivered what would have felt like an early dagger, coming up with a steal and missing the ensuing breakaway dunk, giving Delaware some extended life.
Long received a technical shortly after, and that was the beginning of a 5-0 run that put the 905 up 13. The lead would hover around that mark for the next several minutes, just small enough to keep the 905 from getting comfortable and just large enough that it never seemed Delaware could really threaten a comeback. Caboclo mixed some good and bad during the stretch, making a nice layup and then surrendering his fifth turnover with some strong defensive possessions scattered around those. The defense as a whole really stepped up in this quarter, the 905 doing a much better job on Booker in the second half and holding Delaware to 17 points on 21-percent shooting in the fourth. Thompson drove for an and-one to extend the lead further, and the close-out over the last three minutes was boiler-plate.
It’s that kind of extra gear on defense that makes the 905 dangerous even when Brown isn’t carrying the offense like he can. Delaware managed 86.6 points per-100 possessions, and that was with 17 offensive rebounds with Meeks out of the lineup. The 905 continue to be just relentless hounds on the ball and in passing lanes, forcing 24 turnovers here. Thompson stepped up in Meeks’ absence, Washington gave them good minutes, Caboclo contributed on the glass, and the bench picked up the scoring load where Brown needed some help. It was another team effort that should have Stackhouse confident in his team’s ability to keep winning if they lose players to the Raptors or to FIBA qualifiers in the coming weeks, and a third consecutive victory pushes them a little closer to Westchester atop the East.
- Assignment notes
- Bruno Caboclo was terrific defensively, especially in the second half. As part of the team’s swarming defense, his length becomes such a factor, and he’s getting much smarter with his gambles to produce deflections and steals. He finished with five steals here, plus two blocks, and was tops among the starters at plus-9 in 30 minutes. He also shot the ball better than he has lately, hitting 6-of-11 and 2-of-4 on threes for a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double. The five turnovers are a little unsightly, but the team desperately needed what he brought on the glass, he was a key factor on defense, and he even dished two assists. Strong game here.
- Alfonzo McKinnie is with the Raptors.
- Other 905 player notes
- Lorenzo Brown had probably his worst game of the season, shooting 4-of-20 for 13 points and eight rebounds. Credit is due for downshifting in the second half and taking on a more muted role, focusing on the defensive end and just keeping the ball moving on offense. It’s telling that despite the shooting mark, he was still a plus-8.
- Malcolm Miller had the type of solid game the 905 have come to expect, playing a role that looks pretty similar to what his NBA role would be. He provided strong defense across multiple positions, took his spot-up opportunities, and looked to attack a bit with the three not falling how he’d like. He had 11 points, five rebounds, an assist, and a block in 29 minutes. Not his best game, but solid all around.
- Kennedy Meeks sat out due to an ankle injury suffered Monday…Shevon Thompson was a monster in his stead, scoring 21 points with 11 rebounds…Fuquan Edwin scored 14 points and had five steals off the bench with a team-best plus-20. The 3-and-D rep is real…The Canadian guards are so pesky defensively.
- 87ers notes: Demetrius Jackson and James Young were both sidelined…Askia Booker is a really good G League player, and the 905 did a nice job slowing him in the second half. He still finished with 24 points, but they came on 29 possessions…Devin Robinson shot poorly but did enough off the ball and as a playmaker to draw attention…Emeka Okafor is the savviest offensive rebounder there is.
- Shout out to the Delaware broadcast team. The color commentator tried to fight through illness the entire first half, and then the play-by-play person had to do the entire second half solo. I can vouch from experience that calling a game A) sick and B) solo are both very difficult. Kudos to them for gutting it out.
- The 905 return home Saturday afternoon. A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.