A three game road trip proved a success for the Raptors 905, winning two out of three games, losing the first game by a single point. The return of Paul Watson Jr. and Mike Parks Jr. gave Toronto the paint presence it desperately needed, while Tyler Ennis’ ever-increasing physicality showed just how strong this team can be.
December 7th – Raptors 905 at Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Final Score | Raptors 905 101, Fort Wayne Mad Ants 102 115 | Box Score
Two Ways: Shamorie Ponds (905), Oshae Brissett (905), Dewan Hernandez (905), Naz Mitrou-Long (Mad Ants)
Out: Sagaba Konate (905), Devin Robinson (905), Paul Watson Jr. (905), Mike Parks Jr. (905), Brian Bowen II (Mad Ants), Demetrius Denzel-Dyson (Mad Ants), Tre Kelley (Mad Ants), Hasheem Thabeet (Mad Ants)
A foul by Shamorie Ponds on Naz Mitrou-Long with 7 seconds left in regulation time gave the Fort Wayne Mad Ants a single point lead, ruining the Raptors 905 chance at an overtime redemption. Toronto, who lead by as many as 17 points at the end of the first quarter, were outscored throughout the remaining three quarters, despite Justin Anderson’s 31 points.
Dewan Hernandez: Usually a player recording a career low number of points would not be a highlight, but this time, it’s a good thing! Up until this game, Hernandez’ defence and team-play could best be described as lackluster. Primarily a score-first player, Hernandez always finished with double-figure points, and very few (if any) assists. But on Saturday, something clicked. Hernandez was now defending like a true NBA player. He set screens for his teammates, allowing them to roll to the basket without getting trapped. He double-teamed the Mad Ants with Tyler Ennis, denied shots from Travin Thibodeaux, and stopped a red-hot Walt Lemon Jr. dead in his tracks. He put up 9 total rebounds, 8 of which came on the defensive end. The 905’s switch defense with an involved Hernandez often left Fort Wayne scrambling, giving Toronto 7 steals and forcing 15 turnovers. Dewan’s defensive effort was equally matched by his playmaking, recording 4 assists, including a handoff and immediate screen for Tyler Ennis who then knocked down a three-point shot. The final possession of the first quarter was a pass from Hernandez to Matt Morgan for an easy basket, giving the 905 a 17 point lead.
Pace: This game felt about as stop-and-go as a football game. Granted, I can’t remember the last time I watched a football game, but I do know that there is a whistle about every 4 seconds, and this was no different. 42 personal fouls and 30 free throw attempts is more than enough time for both teams to catch their collective breath, but can be frustrating for two teams who both prefer to play at a steady pace. The 905 did not allow the constant interruption of the whistle to negatively impact their style of play, but used it to their advantage. Justin Anderson and Tyler Ennis were able to sit for a large portion of the second quarter due to the lead the 905 had created, and begin the second half with fresh legs.
Involvement: Basketball is a game best played when the entire team is involved. The first game of the road trip showed that the 905, when they play as a team, are well on their way to a winning record. An Oshae Brissett steal and pass to Tyler Ennis gave Brissett 2 of his 20 points, when Ennis immediately passed back to Oshae for a layup. Justin Reyes, who began the second quarter double-teamed by the Mad Ants, was able to find and pass to Hernandez, who he had only played one game with prior. A sequence between Nicholas Baer, Oshae Brissett, and Matt Morgan led to another Brissett basket and foul, giving Toronto an 8-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Morgan and Brissett connection was on display once again, when Morgan threw a full court pass to the running Brissett.
Rebounding: It is a luxury to trust that every time your teammate shoots inside the paint, his shot will go in. But relying on a falling shot instead of rebounding is essentially giving up easy baskets. Dewan Hernandez is an exceptional scorer in the post, but it is on his teammates to meet him there to ensure that the points are accounted for if the ball doesn’t fall on the first shot. By the same hand, Hernandez has to rebound his teammate’s shots, and not just his own.
December 9th – Raptors 905 at Long Island Nets
Final Score | Raptors 905 106, Long Island Nets 95| Box Score
Two Ways: Shamorie Ponds (905), Oshae Brissett (905), Dewan Hernandez (905), Henry Ellenson (Nets), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (Nets)
Out: Sagaba Konate (905), Devin Robinson (905), Paul Watson Jr. (905), Justin Reyes (905), CJ Massinburg (Nets), Angel Nunez (Nets), Ash Yacoubou (Nets)
If it feels like the Raptors 905 play the Long Island Nets nearly every day, it’s because they pretty much do. In their third game in 10 days, the Raptors were able to take down the Nets for a second time, this time by more than a single point. Despite shooting just 21% from 3, and winning only the 4h quarter, Toronto were able to hold Long Island to 95 points, while putting up 106 of their own.
Passing: It appeared that the Raptors 905 were headed in the direction of a blowout after a 13-5 run for the Long Island Nets. An early timeout called by head coach Jama Mahlalela gave the team the spark that they needed, and the lead was quickly cut to 2 after Oshae Brissett sent a gorgeous pass to the cutting Tyler Ennis. Another possession saw Duane Notice poke the ball away from former teammate Deng Adel, and directly to Shamorie Ponds for 1 of the 905’s 14 steals.
Paint Presence: A problem early in the season, and in large part due to injury, was the 905’s lack of a paint presence. The absence of Justin Reyes, Sagaba Konate, and Devin Robinson leave Toronto undersized in the paint, making it easy for the opposing team to shoot over or simply body through the 905. The addition of Mike Parks Jr., and his 6’9 270 lb frame, Dewan Hernandez’ newly minted defensive abilities, and Nicholas Baer’s evolving mobility have drastically increased Toronto’s defensive success in the paint.
Playmaking: With 23 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the 905 ran a play in which both Matt Morgan and Duance Notice waited in the right-hand baseline corner. Shamorie Ponds, the ball-handler, waited until the shot clock reached 10 seconds, and had Morgan and Notice cut towards the basket, distracting the defence. Ponds then drove to the basket with the ball for an open layup to end the first quarter.
Senseless Fouls: Oshae Brissett finished the game with 4 fouls, two of which appeared unnecessary. In the first quarter, Brissett was called for an illegal screen, causing Tyler Ennis’ three-pointer to be waived off. In the second quarter, while Mike Parks Jr. was waiting under the basket, anticipating the block or rebound, Brissett reached and fouled the shooter, Deng Adel. Thankfully, the Long Island Nets were held to 6-11 free throws.
December 11th – Raptors 905 at Windy City Bulls
Final Score | Raptors 905 113, Windy City Bulls 109 | Box Score
Two Ways: Shamorie Ponds (905), Oshae Brissett (905), Dewan Hernandez (905), Bol Bol (Bulls), Adam Mokoka (Bulls), Max Strus (Bulls)
Out: Sagaba Konate (905), Devin Robinson (905), Mike Parks Jr. (905), Justin Reyes (905), Dayon Goodman (Bulls), Darel Poirier (Bulls)
The Raptors 905 are now 2-0 against the Windy City Bulls, after defeating them 114-109 during a matinee game. The return of Paul Watson Jr. sent Oshae Brissett to the bench, though both players finished in double figures.
Nicholas Baer: December 11th will more than likely be remembered as the Kawhi Leonard return game (remember when he was a Raptor? And they won the championship?) but for the G-Unit (that’s us G-Leaguers), it will be known as the Nicholas Baer game. Baer, a native of Bettendorf, Iowa, received the Fred VanVleet/Rockford, Illinois treatment while playing at the Sears arena, just two hours away from his hometown. With the stands full of family and friends, Baer shot 100% from 3, totalling 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Bench Mob: Nicholas wasn’t the only player productive from the bench. While Paul Watson was the only starter with a positive +/-, Oshae Brissett was the only player with a negative +/-, despite his 14 points. In total, the bench accounted for 49 of the 905’s 113 points, and 14 of their 33 assists.
Chemistry: Now that the 905 have a team of more than 7 active players at a time, their chemistry is able to develop. The Shamorie Ponds and Nicholas Baer connection was apparent throughout the entirety of the road trip, but it was the Bulls game that saw them including multiple teammates, moving the ball through Tyler Ennis and Duance Notice as well as themselves. The size difference between Dewan Hernandez and Tyler Ennis could throw opponents off, but any attempt to push through their double team was quickly thwarted. A ball headed out of bounds at rapid speed was saved by Duane Notice and passed to Dewan Hernandez, saving the 905 from a turnover.
Justin Anderson Was Still Great But I Needed Something Here: Anderson was a -20 against the Windy City Bulls, his lowest +/- since joining the 905. He still managed to put up a double-double though, with 18 points and 12 rebounds. It could be fatigue, as Anderson has not played consecutive games since the Washington Wizards 4 preseason games. Or it could be that he needs to be reminded of how much I love him. Either way, I wouldn’t worry about this one. Justin Anderson is so incredibly good at basketball, and he’s allowed to have an off night.
Hey you there! Raptors Republic is hooking you up with a sweet discount code for Raptors 905 tickets. Follow this link and use the code RR905. https://bit.ly/2pTZgn6 . The 905’s next home game is Saturday, December 14th.