The Raptors 905 continues to adjust to life without Justin Anderson and Paul Watson.
With the two players signing 10-day contracts with the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks respectively, it left the 905 needing to adapt to a new lineup. Without Anderson’s rebounding and hustle or Watson’s three-point shooting, the 905 need to lean on their experienced players to fill the void.
On Sunday, the Raptors 905 would fall to the College Park Skyhawks in heartbreaking fashion 123-119. This would be the 905’s second consecutive road loss, which included a 120-97 domination at the hands of the Oklahoma City Blue last Friday.
The loss to the Skyhawks on Sunday puts the 905 at a 9-13 overall record, four games out of the final playoff spot. For a team that has seen players sign 10-day contracts, jump up to the Raptors or suffer injuries, the 905 cannot afford to lose these close games, particularly with where they are in the standings.
Tyler Ennis was locked in and played up to what 905 fans expect from him as the chief facilitator on this team.
The start of 2020 has seen Ennis underperform, not generating a high percentage of his shots. While Ennis does lead the 905 in assists per game (7.4), becoming a consistent scorer is what he needs to become if he wants to take the next step in his career.
Ennis showcased his complete game on Sunday against the Skyhawks. He tied a team-high 21 points, where he was 9-of-19 from the field and 3-of-9 from three.
Ennis’ speed was evident as he often took the ball into the paint for layups. He was most effective on the transition, using his quickness to record five steals and to set up his teammates for scoring chances. This included a nifty backhanded pass in the second quarter for a layup, one of Ennis’ seven assists in the game.
Ennis’ improved scoring versus the Skyhawks is timely as he looks to continue to turn heads amongst NBA executives and scouts. Along with the Canadian, Matt Morgan was a key contributor for the 905 offense. His 21 points on 6-of-13 shooting and 4-of-9 from beyond the arc kept the Raptors 905 alive late in the fourth quarter.
Even though the 905 fell short, it was Ennis and Morgan who provided the spark with their fervent energy. Their hustle on offense matched with the team’s intensity on defense forcing turnovers.
The 905 won the turnover battle, forcing the Skyhawks to commit 26 turnovers. The 905 players were terrific in the half-court, taking chances going after loose balls and recording steals. Even though the 905 gave up a lot of quality shots to the Skyhawks, their ability to create turnovers on defense is an area to carry over as they continue their road trip.
Starting on time is a reality that the 905 have not achieved on a consistent basis. The trend continued against the Skyhawks, being outscored in the opening quarter 35 to 18.
Raptors 905 head coach Jama Mahlalela stresses the importance of being ready to play, regardless of when the tip is. Unfortunately for the 905, they have developed a tendency of being a rallying second half team after an underwhelming first half.
It is an amalgamation of the 905 not making their shots, turning the ball over and their opponent capitalizing from three or in the paint. The Skyhawks would finish the game shooting 58 percent from the field and 53 percent from three. While many of those shots were a result of high-quality offensive plays, the 905 need to do a better job forcing their opponents to not get as many open looks.
Rebounding continues to be a concern for the 905, particularly without Justin Anderson as a staple on their team. Despite being outrebounded by one against the Skyhawks (37 to 36), the 905 needed to do a better job protecting the defensive glass. The Skyhawks recorded 33 defensive rebounds, demonstrating their ability in the post to not let the 905 get second chance looks. The 905 do have big physical players, they just need to establish a consistent presence with their post-game.
The Raptors 905 are back in action this coming Wednesday as they take on the Capital City Go-Go. This is before back-to-back games against the Canton Charge to wrap up their road trip.
The 905’s Sagaba Konate did not play against the College Park Skyhawks due to an illness. Oshae Brissett continues to remain with the Toronto Raptors.
However, with players such as Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell and Marc Gasol coming back, Brissett will most likely be sent back to play for the 905. A chance for the Toronto native to harness that NBA experience through developing his shooting skills.
With the 905’s road record at 5-8, they need to find a way to have better starts and find a way to win close games. Otherwise, a playoff berth will become further from reality.