Photo credit: Trung Ho / TrungHo.ca
Raptors 905 114, South Bay Lakers 94 | Box Score
Assignees: Malachi Richardson, Alfonzo McKinnie, Nigel Hayes (905), Thomas Bryant (Lakers)
Two-ways: None (905), Alex Caruso, Gary Payton II (Lakers)
The Hershey Centre will host a playoff game once again in 2017-18.
With a rousing, dominant 114-94 victory against the South Bay Lakers on Saturday night, Raptors 905 have clinched home court in the opening round of the playoffs. What that will look like is still a major question mark. The 905 also moved within half a game of the Westchester Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead and the top seed in the Eastern Conference, which would land them a first-round bye. Because of an illogical seeding system, failing to catch Westchester would mean the 905 are instead seeded fourth, forced to play a one-game first-round playoff series. At the very least, Saturday’s game ensures that one-and-done game would come at home and lent confidence that, if the Knicks open a window by losing another game, the 905 will take advantage.
It looked like it could be tough sledding initially. Not only were the 905 on the second night of a west-coast back-to-back – something the G League tries not to include in the schedule – they were also down Lorenzo Brown. They’ve survived Brown’s absence better and better as the season’s rolled on, with Kethan Savage and Kaza Keane capably stepping into larger roles. In this instance, Aaron Best also took on greater ball-handling responsibility, and a balanced attack saw eight different 905ers combine to dish 30 assists in the game. Seven players also scored in double figures, a balanced 905 attack pounding the Lakers into submission pretty early in the second half and allowing Jerry Stackhouse to keep each of his played except for Best at 26 minutes or fewer (the 905 have two days off to recover).
As usual, the 905 defense was a bigger story than their defense, though the two were very related here with the 905 forcing 25 turnovers, getting out in transition, and scoring 27 points off of them. The transition game really gave their 3-point shooting a boost, too, a handful of their 16 makes coming against a scattered and retreating defense. The 905 committed 21 turnovers themselves but got back to defend those miscues much better than South Bay, ultimately holding the Lakers to a stingy 90.4 points per-100 possessions. This, despite a dominant performance inside from Lakers assignee Thomas Bryant. Even without their usual rebounding edge, the 905 did well to keep everyone who wasn’t Bryant in check, sticking to guards, closing out aggressively, and applying heavy pressure on the ball.
Bryant was the story early on, scoring eight first-quarter points including a pair of threes as the Lakers began hot from outside as a team. Kennedy Meeks did his best to respond, scoring eight inside in an interesting battle of differing big men. The hot early shooting helped the Lakers open an early seven-point lead, one the 905 bench worked quickly to erase with an 11-2 run across the quarter break. The momentum built from there, the second quarter standing as a methodical pull-away that took the 905 into the break up 13. Best and the red-hot Fuquan Edwin did most of the damage in the second, combining for 17 points and Nigel Hayes chipping in a late three.
The 905 were mostly in cruise control from there, quickly pushing the lead into the 20s with a 5-of-11 mark from outside in the third quarter. The Lakers’ earlier hot shooting abandoned them entirely, and between Hayes and Malachi Richardson stroking from long-range, South Bay just didn’t have the juice to keep pace. Stackhouse went to his bench early to keep everyone fresh in the back-to-back scenario, and just about any lineup he rolled out proved effective. The fourth was just a matter of finishing the blowout off, and after heavy foul trouble earlier on, Alfonzo McKinnie took over for a stretch to put things away. Stackhouse again went deep, playing 13 players in the quarter and never once allowing the Lakers to get back within 18. A nice sequence from 13th-man Andre Washington put a bow on the game, the 7-footer delivering a block at one end and a dunk at the other.
It’s now a matter of waiting two days before playing the extra game they have on Westchester. The 905 play Tuesday at Reno (26-21, fighting for a playoff spot), Thursday at Agua Caliente (20-26, eliminated), and Saturday at home against Maine (17-30, eliminated) while the Knicks play Wednesday at Wisconsin (21-26, eliminated) and Friday at home against Erie (26-22, fighting for a playoff spot). If the 905 can close the gap and draw even, the tiebreaker is going to get quite complicated – the two teams split their four meetings with a tied composite score and if both teams win out, they’ll finish with the exact same record in-division and in-conference. The NBA tiebreak procedure from there is record against East playoff teams, record against West playoff teams, and then net points; I’m trying to confirm the G League uses the same escalating tiebreakers. First, the 905 have to win out or hope for a Knicks loss, anyway.
- Assignment notes
- Nigel Hayes joined the team and made a quick impact, scoring 15 points and dishing three assists in 25 minutes. He hit 4-of-9 on threes, and while he had four turnovers, he still finished a plus-10. It’s still kind of weird to see him playing with the 905, but he’s had a nice impact two games in a row. His playmaking from the wing is something that’s really stood out.
- Alfonzo McKinnie had another efficient outing here, scoring 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds in just 16 minutes (he had some foul trouble and then the game was a blowout, limiting his run). He also hit two of his three threes to bump his 3-point percentage back up to 35.7 on the season. He had a massive dunk along the baseline, too. He’s usually good for one of those a game.
- Malachi Richardson re-entered the starting lineup and the move seemed to agree with him. He shot the ball much better than he has been, hitting a pair of threes on his way to 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting. It wasn’t all great – he committed four turnovers, dealt with foul trouble, and was a minus-3 – but it’s a step in the right direction offensively and hopefully a boost to his confidence.
- Other 905 player notes
- Lorenzo Brown was pulled from the road Saturday and returned to the Raptors. It’s unclear if that was due to any depth concerns – no point guard is on the Sunday injury report but Fred VanVleet was in a wrist wrap after Friday’s game – or if this is just the Raptors maximizing Brown’s NBA days so he receives the full value of his two-way contract.
- Seven different 905ers scored in double-figures and nine scored at least five…That included Fuquan Edwin, who is on some kind of roll right now, scoring 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He’s up to 38.8 percent from long-range and is a plus-minus machine of late…Aaron Best had six assists to go with 12 points, filling in well as a secondary initiator with Brown out.
- Lakers notes: Thomas Bryant was a problem offensively, scoring 25 points on just 11 field-goal attempts (17 possessions). He also had seven rebounds…Alex Caruso had a 10-point, 13-assist double-double…Gary Payton II scored 12 points but was a minus-19…Former Raptors Summer Leaguer Scott Machado had seven points and five assists.
- The 905 have two more out west before closing the season at home on March 24. A friendly reminder that promo code “REPUBLIC905” will get you a discount at this link all season long.