Photo Credit: Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
Raptors 905 91 Windy City Bulls 99 | Box Score
Two-ways: Rawle Alkins (Bulls)
A few minutes of wild success during the second quarter weren’t enough for the Raptors 905. The game began as poorly as any can. The 905 made every mistake they could, and the Windy City Bulls were merciless in capitalizing. Amidst a whirlwind of missed layups, unforced turnovers, and miscommunications, the 905 found themselves losing 32-9 by the end of the first quarter. One particularly heinous stretch prompted two Jama Mahlalela timeouts within the span of only a few possessions. His speech to the team during the second timeout was somewhat more demonstrative.
“You can’t spot a team, get a down 29,” said Mahlalela after the game. “It’s effort, that wasn’t an X’s and O’s situation. That’s just effort, coming in and being professional every time you start a basketball game.”
One seemingly back-breaking play saw Kay Felder rip the ball away from a Bull, only to have a jump-ball take away the sure dunk for Felder. The Bulls won the jump ball and made a corner 3 with the shot clock expiring. It seemed like the 905 would break, and they almost did. Felder was 1-for-11 at one point in the second quarter, with seven missed triples. He finished 12-for-32 from the field and 3-for-16 from deep.
The 905 couldn’t score from distance. Every point but a handful in the first half came in the paint or from free throws. They shot only 3-for-16 from deep in the half, which didn’t help, but ball and man movement was nonexistent for the 905 offence. The best look most offensive sets could generate was a Felder isolation, and they weren’t working well enough.
Duane Notice was the answer. After making a layup, he hit a step-back 3 with the shotclock expiring. He then powered through a foul for the nifty reverse layup in transition. He hit another triple on the next possession from the corner. At one point, he scored 11 straight points for the home team. Some solid defence, combined with Notice’s outburst, had the 905 trailing only 49-40.
They were fully resuscitated. Felder drove for another layup through the chest of a defender, before Lattin and Deng Adel viciously blocked consecutive Bulls’ attempts at the rim. The 905 defence had become a thicket of swiping arms, rotations, digs, collapses, and recoveries. Felder and Notice traded layups to finish the second quarter, and the 905 were only down 52-48 at the end of the first half.
The magic didn’t carry over to the start of the second half. Notice, Adel, and others missed relatively open shots, but the positive for the only recently reborn 905 was that at least they were getting good looks. The negative, of course, was that the Bulls were making their shots.
Notice found the bottom of the net again in transition, but the Bulls had rebuilt their lead to 10. Felder’s fourth foul sent him to the bench, but the 905 offence somehow stayed afloat. Notice continued his herky-jerky drives, and the 905 ran him off screens to get advantageous looks for the guard. However, most of his made shots came in transition, and the team’s half-court offence still struggled to create separation. The Bulls scored well after 905 misses, which stretched their lead. Outside of Notice’s 3-for-7, the team was o-for-17 from deep by the end of the third quarter. They would finish 7-for-36 as a team.
The fourth quarter began with low energy, though Roger Moute a Bidias did do his best to lift he team with a one-handed throwdown. After Notice checked back in at the 9:00 minute mark, the half-court offence cleaned up, but it wasn’t directly due to Notice’s scoring. In fact, he only attempted one shot in the final frame. He admitted that was a mistake on his own part.
“I think that was just a mental lapse on my part, and I have to continue to do better as a player just to be more aggressive and assertive at all times,” said Notice after the game.
Others stepped up. Adel nailed a corner triple, and Felder finally hit his first of the game on the next possession. A Lattin steal and dunk brought the game back within reach, 81-78.
Fortune finally smiled on the 905, as Felder threw a transition alley-oop towards Adel. It was broken up, but the tip from the Bulls’ defender actually squirted the ball into the basket. Adel’s famous smile blessed the crowd during his jog back down the court.
Felder continued his incredible play in the quarter. He nailed another triple before standing up the 6-foot-8 Kaiser Gates in the post without any help. He forced a wild, airballed layup from Gates. With 2:57 remaining, the 905 were down 91-88, but it was the closest they would come.
Poor execution doomed the 905 down the stretch. Mahlalela took a strange technical foul, which he admitted was the first of his career. The 905 turned the ball over trying to hit ahead, and they even fouled a three-point shooter with less than a minute remaining. Missing stars in Jordan Loyd in Chris Boucher are obvious excuses, but the 905 aren’t happy with their comeback. They have plenty to clean up, most notably their shooting, but the fact they were even in the game after the first quarter was a blessing.
- Duane Notice was fire incarnate. Another member of the Toronto Thicc Basketball Player club, he was the only source of efficient offence for the 905. His jumper was working well, and he had several finishes through contact and over length. He has a unique layup style, where he gets the ball onto the glass as quickly as possible, using as much spin as necessary to finish. It worked well. He is usually a playmaker, and he’s working to stay more aggressive.
- Kay Felder can shoot his team in and out of games, often doing both within the span of only a few minutes. He opened 0-for-10 from deep before hitting a few in the final quarter. He missed a variety of stepback jumpers from the midrange as well. When he did reach the paint, he found great easy looks at will. He’s so strong that he powers through opponents chests without losing height on his jump, like a miniature LeBron James. His strength serves him well in the post, where the 905 know not to help when he has players a full foot taller backing him down. However, he missed two clutch shots in the last minute of the game, taking far tougher looks than the offence would have found if he had passed. He finished with 32 shots.
- Deng Adel had an up-and-down game. His offence was decidedly down, and he frequently rushed shots or drove into traffic. He can’t yet create for himself when a defence is set, but that will come with time. He’s an athletic monster, and he’s at his best catching on the move and attacking. He was great defensively and was a huge part of the team’s success. He finished a +7 in an 8-point loss.
- Roger Moute a Bidias had a few impressive blocks from behind drivers. His was a welcome return for the 905, as his defence from the wing or big position provides versatility and toughness.
- The 905 offence is already in a hole when Chris Boucher isn’t on the court. They lack any truly great shooters, and they won’t have any NBA-quality shooters until Malcolm Miller returns from injury. They compensate with getting out and running, but their transition offence wasn’t nearly as potent without Boucher and Jordan Loyd available. It’s idiomatic to say that the team is worse without two of its best players, but that’s where losing such talent really hurts. Their defence was generally solid, with a few lapses, but every basket felt like a monumental struggle.
- 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