Raptors905 Post-Game

Brown’s 30, bench lead Raptors 905 to comeback over Canton

Heck of a comeback, but an underperformance overall.

Photo credit: Trung Ho / TrungHo.ca

Photo credit: Trung Ho / TrungHo.ca

Raptors 905 106, Canton Charge 97 | Box Score
Assignees: Nigel Hayes, Malachi Richardson, Alfonzo McKinnie (905), None (Charge)
Two-ways: Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller (905), None (Charge)

A grand don’t come for free.

On paper, it was supposed to be an easier afternoon for Raptors 905 at Hershey Centre. With three NBA assignees and both of their two-ways in tow, they’d be up against a Canton Charge team with not only a worse record but no NBA-level support. One of the G League’s best at full strength against a thinned-out team already eliminated from the playoff race looked a certain way. This, as they say, is why they play the games – the 905 stumbled most of the night, falling behind 14 before eventually turning it around for a 106-97 victory that was more up in the air than it maybe should have been.

The 905 looked anything but the part of juggernaut to open the game. Their start was downright lethargic, which couldn’t be owed to unfamiliarity alone, especially after a week of practices to iron out some wrinkles. Instead, the 905 just couldn’t find anyone to hit a shot, Aarin Best standing as the only starter to hit half of his shot over the opening 12 minutes. Lorenzo Brown eased into his first game in nearly a month, shooting 1-of-5, Alfonzo McKinnie got a pair of iffy whistles driving (one foul, one travel), Kennedy Meeks’ usual touches weren’t dropping outside of a game-opening turnaround, and the transition game produced little off of four Charge turnovers.

It was perhaps defensively where the concern was greater, though. While it’s true that Canton shot an unsustainable 5-of-11 on threes, the 905 also gifted them opportunities with a handful of turnovers and second chances on the boards. Even as Canton shot 3-of-11 inside the arc, then, they were able to open up a lead. Jerry Stackhouse turned to an all-bench unit in response – one that hilariously had two NBA players in it – and even against the reserves for a thinned-out Charge team, the 905 couldn’t gather momentum. Not even the debut of Nigel Hayes, which opened with a corner three from the exact spot he hit a game-winner against the 905 earlier in the year, proved a spark.

They found themselves down six after a quarter, and Stackhouse reached even deeper into his bench. Kaza Keane rewarded that effort with a three off of a post-dish from Hayes, though he couldn’t connect on the same look a few possessions later. That was more or less the story, the 905 unable to string scores together even as they blitzed the offensive glass and turned up the pressure in the backcourt to force turnovers. Canton’s shot-making remained a bit above their head, but the 905 eventually began to break through, Keane feeding Shevon Thompson for a big transition dunk and Best following it with an and-one before the rest of the starters returned.

Canton just kept hitting shots, though. They’d finish the half 8-of-15 on threes despite Marcus Thornton being the only plus-shooter on the roster in this game, while the 905 were a respectable, if shakier 7-of-20. That small difference and a much larger one inside the arc loomed large at the half, the 905 stuck six despite a better effort in the second quarter and a late push from Brown. It was a preposterously inexplicable half from an offensive execution standpoint, and whether it was shooting variance or an uncharacteristic complacency with a talent edge, the defense wasn’t to standard, either.

That it took the 905 four minutes to score in the third quarter, and that it took a third-chance opportunity for Meeks to get one to drop, was a bad sign. It had allowed the Charge to go up 13, giving the 905 a steep hole to climb out of. The Meeks bucket at least seemed to reintroduce a modicum of confidence, as Malcolm Miller and Brown followed with scores of their own and Hayes wrapped up a drive to force a jump-ball turnover. Canton still had double-digit control, though, and JaCorey Williams seemed to have little intention of conceding it. Thornton had his back with a trio of massive triples, too, keeping the 905 at arm’s length – in this case, an arm is eight points long – heading into the fourth.

Stackhouse rolled with his all-bench group at the top of the fourth again (with Keane in place of Malachi Richardson) – synergy between NBA and G League teams! – and they did well to close the gap further. Hayes scored on a hook shot, Fuquan Edwin and Davion Berry hit threes, and Thompson was everywhere on a defensive possession to force a shot-clock turnover. A Keane three brought the 905 back within a point with nine minutes to go, an Edwin three a few plays later tied it, and then Edwin put them ahead with a big steal that ultimately led to his fourth three of the afternoon.

“Those guys, our bench was really good for us. The energy that they brought,” Stackhouse said before highlighting Keane’s play in particular.

The job of the bench done, and then some, a few starters filtered back in and continued the run, pulling out ahead by seven on a somewhat rare Thompson mid-range jumper. Canton answered a couple of times, but the 905 responded each time, still holding that seven-point lead into the final three minutes. The Charge had a small window opened when Brown got whistled for a, uh, charge, only for Grant Jerrett to miss an open three and Brown to bounce back with a three. One more three was in order, and so Brown found Berry in the corner for the dagger, going ahead 13 with under a minute to go. The execution for the entire fourth was exactly what was expected initially, and while it took the 905 three quarters – and some lineups a little light on their NBA pieces – a 34-17 quarter is a really nice response.

The win moves the 905 within a game of the Westchester Knicks for best record in the Eastern Conference, an important perch since it comes with a bye attached to it. They have six games left, two home affairs sandwiched around a four-game west-coast trip. The margin for error is low at this point, and so an encouraging comeback here also stands as a paramount one.

“These games are important,” Stackhouse said. “For us, we’ve gotta go out on the road and take care of our business. That’s not something we’re afraid of. If we go out and play our game, we can go win anywhere, we’ve shown we can do that. But it’s not like it’s a favorable schedule for us. I think having this week of practice and trying to tighten some things up, we should be ready to go out and give ourselves a chance to close the season with possibly the best record in the league.”

Notes

  • Assignment notes
    • Nigel Hayes basically did what you’d expect in his first game with a new team with one practice under his belt. He came off the bench, was part of a couple key runs, knocked down an open corner three, and was unselfish when the ball came his way. He shot 1-of-5 on threes but still had seven points on seven possessions, dishing three assists for good measure. He was a plus-12 in 24 minutes. Solid debut, given the circumstances.
      • Hayes was hopping on a flight to re-join the Raptors in New York after this.
    • Alfonzo McKinnie had a quiet night, scoring four points in 19 minutes and sitting out the fourth entirely. He was a team-worst minus-10, and while that doesn’t tell the story, he wasn’t his usual impactful self on the glass or his aggressive self on offense. It was weirdly team-wide for all the NBA guys but Brown, though.
    • Malachi Richardson struggled again here and was the odd man out in the rotation in the second half. It’s true that the 905 had a lot of useful bodies here, but an assignment player getting just seven scoreless minutes obviously looks a certain way. He was coming off of his best game as a member of the 905. These bumps are to be expected, especially on a team this deep where minutes are distributed by merit.
  • Other 905 player notes
    • Malcolm Miller shot the ball poorly and may have been a bit tired after playing a notable role Friday night, but he was terrific down the stretch defensively and really moved the ball with his shot not falling. He finished with five points and three assists.
      • Miller was hopping on a flight to re-join the Raptors in New York after this.
    • Lorenzo Brown returned from nearly a month off due to a left ankle sprain and looked like he hadn’t missed a minute, scoring 30 points on 26 possessions, grabbing seven rebounds, and dishing five assists. The 905 offense did really well to hold their own in his absence; he raises the floor so significantly on that end, though, that it means the 905 can win on a pretty cold shooting night where nobody was getting to the line. Stackhouse said it “wasn’t a great 30.” It was a necessary 30.
    • I’d highlight every individual but it’s easier to just dap the entire bench here. Kaza Keane, Fuquan Edwin, Shevon Thompson, and Davion Berry were all varying degrees of great and more or less won this game as a group. Awesome show of depth heading into a stretch where they’ll really need these guys.
  • Charge notes: I’m not sure they’re NBA players, but Marcus Thornton, JaCorey Williams, and Grant Jerrett all came through big here for Canton. Jerrett didn’t shoot well but had four assists from the center spot, Thornton was lights out from outside, and Williams is earning a reputation as a 905 killer.
  • The 905 are home again Tuesday before embarking on a four-game west-coast trip, then closing the season out at home on March 24. A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.

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