Raptors 905 90 Long Island Nets 97 | Box Score
Assignees: Malachi Richardson (905); Dzanan Musa (Nets)
Two-ways: Chris Boucher, Jordan Loyd (905), Theo Pinson (Nets)
The Raptors 905 have historically been led by dominant single players, combined with a wealth of depth. Fred Van Vleet was a G-League superstar as the 905 won their first championship, and Lorenzo Brown won G-League MVP as he led the 905 back to the finals. Nick Nurse opened affiliate night with a short speech to the crowd praising the success of former 905ers. Early on, however, it was clear that despite the current roster boasting individuals with all the G-League talent in the world, the system ran into trouble against the Long Island Nets.
The 905 struggled to score early, with all of their buckets coming via individual efforts instead of system-created looks. Meanwhile, the Nets dominated the offensive glass on the other end. Boucher frequently jumped himself out of position seeking blocks, and teammates failed to corral the rebounds. Drew Gordon and Mitch Creek recorded multiple offensive rebounds apiece for the Nets in only the first quarter. After only the first few minutes of play, the Nets led 18-8. They pushed the pace, letting their bigs seal 905 guards in the paint or catch easy dump-offs after drives. They dominated in the paint.
Richardson tried to drag the 905 back into the game. He hit an above-the-break triple, and a Boucher block on the next possession created another Richardson 3.
“Listen, someone his size, a wing, a shooter that size is what everyone dreams about,” said Mahlalela of Richardon’s contributions after the game. “He’s someone that can be a real impact player. He’s gotta continue to find ways to find his openings and find his holes to get his shots up. And I think in terms of just playing sort of basic basketball. Keeping the ball moving, finding the next pass.”
The 905 still couldn’t protect their paint. 24 of Long Island’s first 27 points either came in the paint or from free throws earned…. you guessed it…. from shots in the paint. Guards couldn’t contain penetration, and bigs either didn’t help enough or drastically over-helped, allowing passes for layups from the Nets’ bigs.
“We’ve gotta do a better job of hitting, contacting, and taking on the physical challenge,” said Mahlalela. “There are some coverage things we can look at that can sort of help our players with it in terms of our bigs getting extended, but a lot of it is sort of just the fight for the board and really trying to secure it, and a lot of times 50-50 balls, we need to do a better job of grabbing in our hands and then breaking out into our offensive breakout package.”
The 905 offence took a nosedive when Boucher and Deng Adel hit the bench. Loyd had trouble reaching the rim on his drives without much shooting around him, and Duane Notice failed to connect on a few speedy forays to the rim. When the dust settled on the first quarter, the Nets led the 905 32-22.
Toronto’s defensive pressure finally yielded some success in the second quarter, as Khadeem Lattin recorded a steal and dished the ball ahead to Loyd for an uncontested dunk. Loyd again boosted the 905 in transition, earning free throws after a nifty in–and-out dribble. Two possessions later, he high-stepped his dribble into a crossover that opened space for another strong-hand layup.
Up 32-30, the Nets extended their lead with another offensive rebound and putback. Dzanan Musa hit a transition layup for Long Island by out-waiting Toronto’s defenders.
Richardson hit a smooth finger-roll out of the pick-and-roll with Boucher. The 905 are force-feeding Richardson playmaking duty far more than last year, and thus far he’s responded quite well. His in-between game has improved massively this year, as he’s comfortable doing more with the ball than simply sliding to his left for a step-back jumper.
Defence continued to be the ticket for the 905, as a Boucher block led to a spinning Adel layup in transition. His weakside blocks were practically the offence’s best weapon, as a block on the next possession led to a stepback Richardson 3. All of a sudden, the 905 were leading 50-49.
The onslaught continued, as Boucher levitated through the roof to slam home a one-hander, and Richardson hit yet another 3. Like most of the 905’s offence in the first half, they both came in transition. Having played well for perhaps only six minutes in the first half, the 905 led 55-51 after two quarters.
Richardson didn’t cool off with the halftime break. He took a handoff in the corner and navigated a ball-screen to reach the rim, finishing this time with a lefty layup over help. A few possessions later, he overplayed his man and tipped the ball away at half, drawing a hard foul as he went in for the dunk. Later with the Nets in transition, he slid his feet perfectly with a guard to force a travel. He snatched another steal only moments later, though he rolled his ankle on the play and had to leave the game.
Defence ruled the rest of the quarter. Toronto’s possessions developed into isolation attempts, some of which worked, while Long Island threw a variety of passes out of bounds or directly to 905 defenders. The 905’s point of attack defence was dramatically better, and drivers faced a thicket of arms in every direction, rather than the open space they saw in the first half. Rotations were more crisp, and the Nets found far fewer easy paint points. In fact, the Nets had double the number of turnovers, 11, in the third quarter as their 5 made field goals. The 905 took a 70-63 lead into the final quarter.
The 905 opened the fourth with four bench players and Adel on the court. As has been a theme on the young season, they struggled to create offence, though their defence was stringent. Myck Kabongo missed some awkward floaters in the lane, and he had trouble creating good opportunities for his teammates. Boucher, Felder, and Richardson entered the game only a few minutes into the fourth, and Boucher immediately beat the buzzer to go up 74-67.
A few quick jumpers for the Nets quickly tied the game at 74, but a Boucher put-back slam in transition gave the 905 another lead. Richardson and Boucher ran another pick-and-roll, which Richardson rejected before eventually snaking back the other way, drawing both defenders, and kicking back to Boucher for an open triple. Boucher returned the favour moments later, chasing down a loose ball all the way down the court, and dishing to Richardson for a triple of his own.
Theo Pinson scored easily for the Nets, hitting layups and floaters to stay alive and eventually even take the lead. The 905 offence sputtered the half-court, and they found themselves down 87-83 with four minutes remaining. A Richardson pull-up triple rimmed out, so Felder tried the same move twice. He missed both attempts as well. Needing a bucket, Loyd muscled in a drive over a help defender.
Though the 905 defence forced a miss, an offensive rebound gave the Nets another chance. Musa converted on a drive to the rim, and that proved to be the difference. The 905 would miss a few more shots in clutch time, but the damage was done. Regardless, the 905 have a lot of work to do, and Mahlalela was offering that as a silver lining after the game.
“We just couldn’t find the rim. The ball needs to move more. We have a lot of talented players but we have to keep that ball moving at all times. Good learning game for us, I think. It’s early in the season and there’s a ton to learn in pick-and-roll question, transition defence, some stuff to definitely watch on the film and improve on.”
- Jordan Loyd’s athleticism is increasingly impressive early in the season. After a monster dunk in his first home game, Loyd had some incredible finishes against Long Island, especially in the first half. He had one nifty body-out, ball-in layup that fooled everyone. He needs to work on his weak-hand finishing, as well as floaters, but his righty finishes practically dripped off the backboard into the net. His dribble moves towards the rim were effective at the G-League, particularly his crossover and in-and-out dribbles, but he’ll need to speed them up to find success at the NBA level. After playing the vast majority of his minutes with the starters in the 905’s first two games, Loyd played a hefty chunk with the bench platoon against Long Island. Though his presence wasn’t enough to boost the lineup to success, he did show some individual flashes of creation with the ball.
- Chris Boucher had an up-and-down game. He scored poorly, but his shot-blocking was unbelievable. He had five in just the first half. However, Boucher’s home-run swings for blocks – sometimes, even for clearly impossible-to-reach shots – frequently led to his being unable to secure the defensive glass. His teammates had little success, and Boucher even once angrily yelled at Jama Mahlalela, ‘you’ve got to tell those guys to grab it, man!’ after a particularly infuriating putback slam.
- A year ago, Malachi Richardson was a good player for the G-League. He’s developed into a fantastic player at that level. Every level of Richardson’s game has improved, from his defence to his shooting. Most importantly, Richardson is dramatically better at the rim, able to finish over help with both hands, or dish on-target passes to bigs or shooters around the perimeter. He can’t break down a defender at will, which he showed by failing create any separation on an isolation with under a minute remaining. He still finished with 26 points on only 18 shots. He shot 5-for-10 from deep and even added 3 assists to showcase his improved passing.
- Once again this year, Raptors Republic readers will be able to buy discounted tickets to 905 games. The code REPUBLIC905 will get you a discount on Raptors 905 tickets using this link: https://oss.ticketmaster.com/aps/acc/EN/promotion/home