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Raptors 905 lose ground for top spot in East

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

Photo credit: Trung Ho / TrungHo.ca

Raptors 905 96, Reno Bighorns 101 | Box Score
Assignees: Malachi Richardson, Alfonzo McKinnie, Nigel Hayes (905), None (Bighorns)
Two-ways: None (905), Jack Cooley, JaKarr Sampson (Bighorns)

Despite a five point loss, Head Coach Jerry Stackhouse could not have asked for a better effort from his team on Tuesday. Already undermanned with Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller playing for the Big Raptors in Orlando, the 905’s assignees were also mostly absent, going a combined 6-for-23 from the field and a collective minus-4. That the 905 had multiple chances to pull out a road win over a desperate Bighorns team looking to hang onto a playoff spot in the West should be heartening for Stackhouse.

The 905 came into Reno riding a five game win streak, trailing the Atlantic Division leading Westchester Knicks by a half game with only three games left in the season. While the Raptors own the second best record in their conference, they’re seeded fourth due to the (arcane) rule of the three division winners being guaranteed the top three seeds. First place (in the Atlantic) means a bye into the second round, fourth means a single-elimination first round playoff game, albeit at home for the 905. So a lot was at stake, and with the aforementioned two-ways in Orlando, the 905’s depth was going to be tested.

The marquee matchup early was between Kennedy Meeks and Bighorns two-way Jack Cooley – both listed at around 6’10 and 270 pounds (the Bighorns’ broadcast don’t call Cooley “the walking building” for nothing). Cooley owned the duel for the better part of the first quarter, as he was able to get deep position and bully his way to the hoop, leading to 12 first quarter points.

While the Bighorns were getting layups and dunks, the 905 hung around by making four contested threes by four different players. The 905 only shot 37% from the field in the opening quarter, so the one point deficit through 12 minutes felt undeserved, but welcome.

Davion Berry put his stamp on the game from the second quarter on, attacking the basket at every opportunity. In the second, Berry had a nice no-look assist to Shevon Thompson, a strong drive and floater off glass, and an offensive rebound off his own miss and a put back. Berry rushed his game at times, which led to a couple turnovers, but he more than made up for a the miscues by scoring 15 points off 7-for-15 shooting, and adding six rebounds.

A very scary moment came near the end of the half. After Cooley made a couple more field goals to give Reno a five point lead (Cooley was 8-for-10 for 16 points in the half), the Bighorns started another fast break. 6’4 guard Cody Demps caught the ball on the wing, and with a full head of steam went up for the dunk. He missed, and couldn’t hang onto the rim, which sent his body flying, leading to him landing on his head / neck area. Demps lay face down on the floor while players from both teams tried to get medical personnel to him immediately. Thankfully, Demps was seen speaking with EMTs before being placed on a stretcher, and gave the crowd a thumbs up before leaving the arena. Later he was reported to be sitting up and responsive, which is great news.

Reno took a 47-42 lead into the lockerroom.

The 905 started the third with purpose. Aaron Best, who went 5-for-7 from the field and a perfect 2-for-2 from deep,  kicked things off with a three off nice ball movement, which sparked a 9-0 run. But later, 6’3 guard Marcus Williams got going. Afters scoring six points in the first half, Williams hit three triples within a few minutes to keep it a one possession game heading into the fourth.

The final three minutes of the game were wild. With the 905 down one, Berry probed into the lane and kicked to Alfonzo McKinnie for an open corner three. Only problem – he passed it up – instead choosing to swing it to Best, who drove into traffic and had it stripped. Sampson, who after a slow first half finished with a 20 points off 8-for-13 shooting – made the 905 pay with a huge dunk in transition the other way.

Fuquan Edwin tied it with a three (4-for-7 3 pt, 6-for-10 FG, 17 points) but it was immediately answered by the last of Williams’ five treys (to go with 26 points in all). Then the most questionable of the 905’s crunch time possessions came, as Meeks, who’d only made one three this season, attempted the game-tying shot from the corner, which only drew iron. After that crucial miss, Cooley iced the game with an offensive rebound / put-back. Final score – 101-96 Bighorns.

Notes

  • Assignment notes
    • Nigel Hayes struggled, missing five of his six field goal attempts, which were all threes from the left corner.
    • Alfonzo McKinnie couldn’t get going early, trying to probe inside on a few occasions, but finding few openings. He finished 2-for-9 in 30 minutes, but did pull down nine rebounds.
    • Malachi Richardson had a promising start, knocking down an early jumper. But he didn’t make an imprint on the game, going a forgettable (albeit respectable) 3-for-7 from the field in 22 minutes.
  • Other 905 player notes
    • Fuquan Edwin has proved a massive midseason pickup for the 905. At multiple points in tonight’s game, it seemed Reno had a chance to snag momentum, only to see Edwin make a rainbow three with that funky planet earth-like rotation. Edwin is making 1.7 threes a game on nearly 40% from that distance. His ability to spread the floor will be needed come playoff time.
    • Kennedy Meeks had a rare inefficient night, going 5-for-15, without a free throw, and “just” six boards. Having to deal with someone his size like Cooley likely contributed to that line.
  • Bighorns notes: 
    • Jack Cooley’s size and gait may remind you of Bryant Reeves, but he is an absolute load. When Kennedy Meeks can’t hinder you from getting inside, you know the guy is strong. Cooley didn’t add to his 20 double doubles on the season, but he was dominant scoring 23 points off 11-for-17 shooting, adding seven rebounds.
  • The 905 have one 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.

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