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Two-way Caboclo performance leads Raptors 905 to 4th win in a row

15 mins read
Photo credit: Trung Ho / TrungHo.ca

Photo credit: Trung Ho / TrungHo.ca

Raptors 905 106, Wisconsin Herd 95 | Box Score
Assignees: Bruno Caboclo, Alfonzo McKinnie (905), None (Herd)
Two-ways: Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller (905), Xavier Munford (Herd)

Raptors 905 games are just a little more fun when Bruno Caboclo is cooking.

That was the case on Saturday, as Caboclo was a monstrous two-way force in the 905’s 106-95 victory over the Wisconsin Herd. With a pair of Toronto Raptors teammates on hand to watch and two of his co-assignees having quieter nights, Caboclo turned in one of his best halves of the season on offense and one of his most complete defensive performances of what’s already been a strong defensive season. It wasn’t all Caboclo, but in every edge the 905 had – rebounding, 3-point shooting, shot-blocking – he made his presence felt, making head coach Jerry Stackhouse beam by the end of the game.

“Bruno was big-time tonight,” he said with a smile.

The 905 got out to a heck of a start, sending Wisconsin to an early timeout with a 13-2 opening salvo. That stretch saw some great defense from Caboclo around the rim, a three from Alfonzo McKinnie on a nice dish out of the post from Kennedy Meeks, and then a Meeks basket back in the post. All five 905 starters were on the board within minutes, the democratic approach getting everyone appropriately dialed in for the defensive end.  The Herd weren’t going to miss all night, and Xavier Munford and Ricky Ledo both hit tough threes to return the game to the vibe you’d expect between two teams above .500 and fighting for playoff positioning.

The Herd managed to erase the early deficit entirely thanks to Mundford and Joel Bolomboy proving to be the challenge you’d expect. The 905 answered right back, with Lorenzo Brown knocking down a mid-range jumper and then throwing down a tremendous dunk in transition. That was enough to fold a five-point lead after a quarter despite Wisconsin shooting 50 percent from the floor, something Stackhouse seemed unimpressed with. Slower starts on defense have been fairly common, but that’s only really the case because the defense has set such a high bar later in games (their fourth-quarter defense is more than three points per-100 possessions better than anyone else while their first-quarter defense ranks a respectable 11th).

“I feel like if we’re able to get more attempts at the basket and not turn it over, our defense should give us the opportunity to win most games,” Stackhouse said, and while the 905 would commit 18 turnovers for 22 points, they managed 92 attempts from the floor.

The second quarter provided some fun matchups, starting with Shevon Thompson getting to test himself against a once-time fringe-NBA player in Cliff Alexander. While Alexander got the early edge in scoring, it was Thompson who looked the victor, stopping the Kansas product on a pair of post-ups and decidedly winning the rebounding battle. Caboclo and McKinnie chipped in with dunks to extend the lead back out (though McKinnie had some trouble in the corner, both shooting and traveling to attack out of there and it was Meeks’ turn to get the matchup spotlight opposite Bolomboy. He picked up his strong play where it left off two games back before an ankle sprain, grabbing a couple of difficult rebounds and securing a loose ball to set up a Brown Euro-step.

Were it not for Munford, the 905 may have been able to put this away earlier. He made a couple of difficult shots and was working his tail off defensively to make things tough around the perimeter, and while it’s nice to see him in a semi-consistent situation as a two-way player, he remains high on the list of guys who probably don’t need much more G League seasoning for a fourth year in a row.  unford finished with 10 points in the quarter and 15 in the half, almost single-handedly keeping the Herd, who shot 37.9 percent outside of Munford, alive. That kept the 905 lead to a modest seven at the half, a total team effort with none of their nine scorers in double-figures.

The 905 defense had no designs on easing up in the third quarter, and while Wisconsin hit some tough shots, they were more often frustrated by collapsing bodies inside or long arms at the rim. Caboclo, in particular, was a major deterrent, and he and Meeks prevented the Herd from getting much in the way of second chances. They broke through in the back half of the quarter against a Brown-and-bench unit, though, and with the 905 struggling to finish in the paint, the Herd entered the fourth down just four.

“Speed kills and you can’t teach length,” Stackhouse said. “Not in the game of basketball. And that’s what he has, he has a ton of length. He’s able to get his hands on a lot of balls that a lot of people, even myself, could only dream about. It’s really good for the things that we want to do scheme-wise defensively. ”

While Munford had cooled some, Bolomboy and Alexander picked up that slack, the latter being the only Herd bench player to score to that point. James Blackmon Jr., acquired this week in a trade after he helped limit Brown a few days earlier as a Delaware 87er, finally chipped in, too, and Brian Williams followed up from outside. That put pressure on a Caboclo-and-bench group to score enough to keep Wisconsin at arm’s length, and they did their damndest – Fuquan Edwin drilled a three, Caboclo drove left to the rim for a soft finish, and a Thompson block set up a Caboclo three the other way. Caboclo then blocked a shot backpedalling in transition, and another Edwin three sent Wisconsin to a timeout to try to salvage the game, suddenly stuck 10 again, a sizable gap against an elite defense.

The strong play from that group earned them a longer leash from Stackhouse, which only last 90 seconds or so before the other starters began filtering back in. Caboclo remained the difference-maker, nailing three consecutive threes to give him 20 points in the second half and put the 905 ahead 13. It was a really encouraging two-way display for Caboclo, showing immense confidence on the offensive end without a moment of let-up on defense. He’d eventually miss a corner triple, but he’d given the 905 all the breathing room they’d need.

“Yeah. They fouled me over there but it’s all good, I made three in a row, so I wasn’t feeling bad for it,” Caboclo said.

Thompson scored on a transition dump-off and Malcolm Miller hit a three as a trailer just to be sure, and the final few minutes saw a lead that had shrunk to six extend back out to 16. Wisconsin played the timeout game down the stretch, the damage from Caboclo and a Kaza Keane-and-starters group too much to surmount.

“I’m happy for him, just ’cause he hasn’t been shooting it great lately, but he’s been getting his work in, his reps in, spending extra time in his player development. He’s been shooting the ball well, it just hadn’t carried over to the games,” Stackhouse said. “It’s good to see that hard work is starting to pay off. More so than anything, I thought he was disruptive on the defensive end, all over the place with deflections. Our grading system, I know he’s gonna be a big-time plus, ’cause he was really really active on both ends.”

This marks the fourth win in a row for the 905 and their 15th in the last 18 games, enough of a run to take them from 4-9 to within two games of the best record in the Eastern Conference. To have it come exactly to form – with a balanced team-oriented offensive attack that included 25 assists and six of their 10 scorers in double-figures and some great defense that held the Herd to 100 points even per-100 possessions – with a breakthrough two-way performance from Caboclo had Stackhouse pleased.

“No doubt. I thought it was a really good test for us on both sides,” he said.

A huge game looms Wednesday morning, with the conference-leading Westchester Knicks visiting for an 11 a.m. tip in a showdown of what may be the two best teams in the East right now. That should be a great measuring stick for their progress the last two months.

Notes

  • Assignment notes
    • Bruno Caboclo was really, really good here. I know some just want the box score line, and those people would come away impressed. He hit 7-of-15 on threes and had 25 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, and a plus-13 mark in 38 minutes. That all speaks for itself, especially the 3-point shooting. There was so much Caboclo did that won’t show up there, too, though. He was a monster defensively, deterring Herd drivers in the paint, timing his help well, helping the helper, and taking care of the glass (this is the third time in the last four games he’s had a big rebounding night). Offensively, he mostly just hit shots in the flow of the offense but also had a nice drive with his left for a sweet finish, the second game in a row he’s gone left successfully. Caboclo has a legitimate case for G League All-Defense Team consideration right now, and when his shot falls like this, the reasons the Raptors have been patient with the experiment come into pretty clear focus.
    • Alfonzo McKinnie had a tough night shooting the ball in his first extended run in some time. He was 1-of-6 on threes and 3-of-13 overall, though he did dish three assists attacking the close out and keeping the ball moving. He’s always pretty solid defensively, and he was a plus-9 in 28 minutes.
    • Lucas Nogueira was in attendance, in full camo so nobody could spot him courtside. OG Anunoby was likewise conspicuous, hood and toque over his head the entire time. Nogueira was egging Caboclo on a bit as he heated up in the fourth.
  • Other 905 player notes
    • Lorenzo Brown rebounded a bit from a tough Wednesday but was still quiet by his standards, scoring 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He did dish nine assists to only two turnovers, though, and Keane earning the close-out nod was more a reward for Keane’s strong play than any lost faith in Brown. He figures to have another big game soon, particularly if his three starts falling again.
    • Malcolm Miller had a really nice night off the bench, hitting three threes, getting to the line, and playing active defense to produce a pair of steals. He finished with 14 points on nine possessions and six rebounds in 23 minutes.
    • Kennedy Meeks and Shevon Thompson did their usual act, combining for 24 points and 15 rebounds. Meeks also dished three assists, while Thompson had a pair of blocks…Fuquan Edwin continues to come on offensively, scoring 13 points and hitting three threes.
  • Herd notes: Xavier Munford has spent too much time at this level. He has 24-7-5 and was the Herd’s best player by a wide margin…Joel Bolomboy had a solid night, too, scoring 18 points, though he was out-worked on the glass (the 905 won the rebounding battle in a big way)…Cliff Alexander can bully some players at this level but the 905 centers aren’t those players.
  • The 905 are at home again Wednesday morning at 11. A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.

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