Photo credit: Trung Ho / TrungHo.ca
Raptors 905 118, Erie Bayhawks 106 | Box Score
Assignees: Alfonzo McKinnie, Malachi Richardson (905), Tyler Cavanaugh, Jeremy Evans, Chris McCullough (via Wizards) (Bayhawks)
Two-ways: Lorenzo Brown, Malcolm Miller (905), Josh Magette, Andrew White (Bayhawks)
It was never going to come easy. Though the 905 won, the Bayhawks kept the game tight until the final few minutes. Jeremy Evans dominated for the bad guys, but Lorenzo Brown, Aaron Best, and Shevon Thompson made sure that the 905 would have more ball to play this season.
The game began with some exciting offence. The first shot of the game was a made Bayhawks three via Jeremy Hollowell, but the 905 responded with a Lorenzo Brown – Alfonzo McKinnie alleyoop on the next play. However, the 905 would immediately fall into a hole, missing jumpers and turning over the ball, while the Bayhawks hit some unlikely shots to take a 10-2 lead. Raphiel Putney hit a 30-footer above the break, early in the shot clock, but Malcolm Miller then responded with a 3 of his own.
Rebounding proved to be the 905’s advantage early. Even when they missed shots, they were often able to get their mitts on the ball and earn other chances. Meeks was terrific, with three rebounds in as many minutes to start the game. He had chances at several other offensive rebounds, despite not being able to control them.
Despite the effort from the 905, Erie continued to pull away. Jeremy Evans threw down a pair of ferocious dunks due to 905 defensive breakdowns. He’s a spiritual descendant of Shawn Kemp, in his effort to tear the rim from the stanchion after every dunk. The Bayhawks led 14-5 only 5 minutes into the game.
One of the greatest threats of the Bayhawks offence is Josh Magette. A two-way player, his ability to slice into the lane and spray the ball on-time and on-target to shooters is perhaps matched only by Lorenzo Brown among G-Leaguers. Magette isn’t a terrific shooter, so defenders frequently play low to defend the drive and pass. That strategy bit the 905 early, as Magette connected on his first triple attempt of the game, though Brown scored his first basket of the game on the next possession, on a drive and pull-up off the glass.
Both teams played physical, handsy defence. The referees let players play, as both teams amassed blocks. Shevon Thompson swatted a fastbreak attempt, while Malcolm Miller erased a jumpshot from the midrange. Brown and Miller 3s pulled the 905 back into the game, only down 5 with 3 minutes remaining in the 1st. As the Lorenzo+bench lineup got some run, the 905 – as usual – began to pull ahead. Thompson snatched an offensive rebound and putback, while Fuquan Edwin nailed a corner 3 to give the 905 their first lead of the game. Malachi Richardson, as has become commonplace so far in the playoffs, found a way to contribute as soon as he entered the game, collecting assists despite his shot not falling.
The second quarter began with the bench lineup – no longer with Lorenzo Brown on the court – getting itself into trouble. A turnover led to a Bayhawks runout, while Magette drew a shooting foul on Davion Berry to push the Erie lead to 5. After already having fought back from double digits, 5 points felt more than manageable.
Jerry Stackhouse deviated from his usual rotation pattern, inserting Kethan Savage early in the 2nd for a foul-plagued Davion Berry. Perhaps Stackhouse thought Savage’s slashing ability and athleticism would bring the 905 more on the offensive end than Kaza Keane’s steady playmaking.Though the 905 offence looked ugly immediately after, they found ways to score. Thompson hit the offensive glass in transition, and McKinnie nailed a tightly-contested bailout corner 3 to keep the 905 afloat during Lorenzo Brown’s minutes on the bench. Aaron Best nailed a corner triple from the other side to bring the 905 back within 1.
Meanwhile, Erie found much of their offence in transition. Some uncharacteristic turnovers from the 905, as well as some long rebounds, were able to give the Bayhawks several easy layups in the fastbreak. Neither team was scoring much in the half-court. The 905 responded by crashing the offensive glass, which often resulted in some buckets. The Bayhawks, however, were able to score while avoiding half-court attempts, due to the 905 defenders being out of position due to the rebound-hunting. The Bayhawks finished the first half with 15 points off of 905 turnovers.
Towards the end of the quarter, Kennedy Meeks rejoined the game and made a few rare mistakes with the ball around the rim. The lead changed hands, as Jeremy Evans continued his warpath on the offensive glass, and Aaron Best hit another 3 to re-take the lead for the 905. Magette finished an impressive and-1 layup, and both teams were officially heating up in the half-court. John Gillon closed the half with a 35-foot triple to give the Bayhawks the lead 56-50 heading into the half.
Both teams were shooting well from deep. The 905 shot 8/17 from behind the arc in the first half, while the Bayhawks connected on 7/17 of their own. That, plus the aforementioned offensive rebounding and fastbreak scores, allowed both teams above-average scoring totals despite their reputations as defence-first teams.
Jeremy Evans made me feel dumb as soon as the third quarter began, scoring the 2nd half’s first basket on a gentle layup that could easily have been a demonstrative dunk. On the other end, Kennedy Meeks picked up his fourth foul on a moving screen, but best drilled another 3 to show the 905 that things were not lost. Stackhouse kept Meeks in the game, which was an impressive coaching decision that really paid off. The 905 were able to keep their rotations intact, and Meeks repaid his coach’s trust by continuing to lay strong, physical defence without picking up another foul.
Magette continued his strong play on the offensive end, blowing past McKinnie on a switch for an easy layup. McKinnie got the last laugh, hitting a corner triple only a moment later to pull the 905 back within four, down 58-62. Out of the timeout, Evans threw down yet another jam, and Putney hit yet another deep triple to keep the 905 at bay.
Then Brown took over. Here were his next four possessions. Brown blocked Magette in the midrange and converted a layup on the other end. He hit a gorgeous layup in the half-court after an in-and-out dribble, before slowing down to keep his defender on his back, and laying the ball over the center. He hit a pair of free throws on the following possession, and followed that with a euro-step layup in transition.
Regardless, the game was tied at 69 halfway through the third. Then things got sloppy, mostly being for the benefit of the 905. Gillon missed a layup with no defender anywhere in sight, and the Bayhawks compiled a few unforced turnovers. A 905 fastbreak layup left a Bayhawk under the net on the other end, undefended for a quick dunk the other way. The fast pace seemed to leave both teams fatigued, defenders moved slowly while long-distance jumpers clanked out. Davion Berry took over in the chaos [insert Bane joke here], scoring several points in the last few minutes of the quarter. The 905 entered the final frame up 82-78.
Lorenzo Brown continued his calm yet dominant ways in the 4th, opening the 905’s scorecard with yet another layup in the half-court. He followed that with an and-1 runner from the baseline. Brown’s offence is so important for the 905 when the game slows down, as he is worlds ahead of any of his teammates at creating offence from nothing when the defence is set.
But Jeremy Evans wouldn’t go down without a fight. He hit his second 3 of the game a moment later, keeping the Bayhawks within striking distance. Brown immediately hit another layup, and the Bayhawks angrily called a timeout, down 8 practically before the quarter had begun. Brown struck from deep a minute later. Though Brown missed his next triple attempt, Shevon Thompson fished out the rebound and layup to keep the lead at 9.
The Bayhawks continued to keep pace, refusing to fall down by double digits. Andrew White hit a triple, but Shevon Thompson answered, scoring a layup from a Brown feed in the pick and roll. Magette hit a hanging layup over Thompson on the next possession, but Thompson calmly made a layup of his own to follow. A Best step back triple gave the 905 that double-digit lead that made the game feel finished. Only 3 minutes later, the 905 had earned their ticket to the finals.
The 905 played a relatively perfect game. Though the Bayhawks scored a lot of points, they hit some shots that the 905 wanted them taking. On offence, the 905 shot well, and they dominated the offensive glass. Turnovers were an issue in the first half, which has been a nagging one throughout the season. The 905 lost the first half by 6. But in the 2nd half, the 905 turned the ball over only a handful of times, and they dominated their opponents. The game was a testament to Jerry Stackhouse, who has masterfully steered this team back to the finals once again. His coaching masterpieces have become commonplace, and he will only need to maintain that level for a few more games against the Austin Spurs in order for the 905 to repeat as champions.
- Assignment notes
- Alfonzo McKinnie had a quiet game that was fairly definitive of his season. He finished with 7 points and 1 made 3, but the team looked good with him on the floor. When the 905 turned their season around, part of it came as a result of taking some playmaking responsibilities out of McKinnie’s hands and giving them to Brown. He still contributes, with important defence, good rebounding, and overall quick decision-making. Still, if the 905 repeat as champions, he’ll have to play a little better.
- Malachi Richardson played the entire game under the radar. He never found his scoring touch, only finishing 1/5 in the game. But the 905 don’t depend on Richardson to give them much, and his playmaking (3 assists) helped the 905, especially in the first half, when they went stretches without being able to score in the half-court.
- Other 905 player notes
- Lorenzo Brown was, as usual, terrific. Despite the high scores from both teams, baskets in the half-court were hard to come by. These teams are both terrific defensive teams, and they have similar physical styles. When jumpshots weren’t falling, Lorenzo Brown could score at will. He finished with 28 points and 8 assists to only 3 turnovers. His handles allow him to get anywhere he wants at the G-League level, and his ability to create at will proved to be the difference in this game. He’s improved so much this season. He knows when his team needs him to attack, and he knows how to manipulate everyone on the court in his favour. If the 905 are going to repeat as champions, Brown needs to repeat this performance.
- Malcolm Miller is so important for this team. Though he only shot 3/8 from deep, he had the team’s second-highest +/-. The offence doesn’t ever look very smooth when he’s on the bench, as it often stalls into offensive rebounding without his shooting. His defence is incredibly important for this team.
- Aaron Best can be forgotten as the fifth guy amongst the starters. He’s a terrific defender, but don’t be fooled. He is perhaps the team’s second-best shooter behind Malcolm Miller, and he can create against rotating defences. Tonight was Best at his… most impressive. He finished with 23 points and 4 made 3s. When his stroke is falling, and Best is aggressive, the offence looks completely different.
- A superhuman performance for Shevon Thompson. With Meeks in foul trouble, Thompson just took over, finishing with 18 points and 16 rebounds, including 9 offensive. He was simply too big and too strong for the Bayhawks on both sides of the floor.
- Bayhawks notes:
- Jeremy Evans baby! For a 30-year-old who’s been out of the NBA for a while, Evans can throw it down. He even has more skill than I remember from his NBA days, knocking down some triples. His offence was important for the Bayhawks tonight.
- Josh Magette is always a pleasure to watch. He never forces his offence, but he always seems to know when to score. He finished with 18 points. He dished 12 assists to only 1 turnover, and his driving allowed the Bayhawks to frequently make the league-best 905 defence look ridiculous. Though he’s small, he has a good nose for defence, and he’ll throw his body around. I know it’s said for so many people, but if he could learn to shoot…..
- The 905 now head to Austin. The team that finished with the third-best record in the league will, somehow, have the entire playoffs on the road. Game 1 will be Sunday on the road, game 2 Tuesday at home, and if necessary, a third game will take place on Friday in Austin.