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Raptors 905 Pull Off Comeback Win over Westchester Knicks 127-115

6 mins read
Alize Johnson
Alize Johnson's 36 points and 17 rebounds propelled the Raptors 905 to a comeback victory over the Westchester Knicks on Saturday (photo by: Getty Images)

Picture this. The Raptors 905 played Friday night, defeated the Greensboro Swarm, then had to come back Saturday afternoon to take on the Westchester Knicks.

Back-to-backs are common in the G-League. But so close together? 

“Is this legal?” Raptors 905 head coach Patrick Mutombo asked before the game. 

Understandably, the Raptors 905 started slow. Alize Johnson missed two easy bunnies at the rim. It appeared that the physical toll of playing on consecutive days was catching up to the 905, down by eight heading to the fourth quarter. 

When Mutombo gathered his guys before the fourth quarter began, his message was simple: 

“Just win.” 

The Raptors 905 got a spring in their step, played with toughness, overcoming the eight-point deficit to defeat the Knicks 127-115. Before the game, Mutombo discussed how his team is finding “its heartbeat.” 

This gutsy win accelerated that. 

“You just see guys coming together that just did not want to lose,” Mutombo said after the game. “They went to get that game with everything they had. We had every excuse possible. We didn’t take any, and we figured out a way to just win. I’m so proud of our group today.” 

***

Johnson led the comeback in the fourth player, putting up threes, protecting the rim, and playing tight, physical defense. His double-double 36 points and 17 rebounds allowed the 905 to stick around to the fourth quarter, before overcoming the eight-point deficit. 

“He saved us,” Mutombo said. “He put us on his back, and we just say, ‘Alright big dog you got us.’ He’s galvanized the team.” 

Here, Johnson shows great patience and vision, seeing a lane to run into the paint, before taking a quick shot that rolled in.

https://twitter.com/nbagleague/status/1365772824204500992

Then, in the fourth quarter, Johnson found his gap, intercepting a pass which led to an emphatic slam dunk in transition.

Johnson started the fourth quarter on the bench. When he saw his teammates increase the intensity and production on the court, he fed off that energy when he returned to the game. 

“I see our guys get back into the game when I was sitting out and that just got me excited,” Johnson said. “I got to get a little breather there, and I got in I was ready to finish it up.”

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The 905 team defense picked up in the fourth quarter, limiting the Knicks to 17 points. Newly acquired Raptor Donta Hall played a major role in leading the defense, protecting the rim with his ability to block shots (four in the game). The 905 also did a solid job protecting the perimeter and not giving the Knicks players space to hit open threes from beyond the arc compared to earlier in the game. 

Offensively, in addition to Johnson, the 905 practiced their “selfless” style of play that Mutombo employs. In the clip below, 905 guard Matt Morgan finds Hall, who then quickly passes it to Morgan on the pick and roll. Morgan then moves inside the perimeter, finds a cutting Hall to the rim, before kicking it out to the corner to Tres Tinkle, who attacks the basket for the dunk. 

Morgan, who also had a double-double 19 points and 10 assists, says that the “next man up” mentality allows the 905 to get many players involved in scoring.

“It’s a credit to my teammates and my coaches,” Morgan said. “Everyone has a role and things change. But you got to adapt quickly, and I think that’s one of the things that I’ve been able to do well personally but I think everyone on our team has been able to do it.”

Raptors 905 Notes: 

– Raptors two-way player Jalen Harris remains out with a finger injury.

 

– 905 forward Gary Payton II left the game on Saturday with a right calf contusion. He did not return and no update was provided postgame.

 

– After the game, Matt Morgan discussed how he’s able to stay motivated despite the limited touches earlier in the season. Below is the full quote, thanking his parents for teaching him to keep playing: 

 

“I think it’s a credit to my parents. Since I’ve been little they’ve always given me this mentality, and we have something in our house we just say ‘just keep playing.’ You never know what’s going to happen. You never know what opportunity is going to present itself. So just keep playing and stay ready. Like we said before, I didn’t play heavy minutes before, but now I just keep playing, stay working, stay ready and now I’m here. Playing point guard which I didn’t do a lot so, as you said, adapting to new roles, but being able to learn on the fly is a skill.

–      Next Game: Monday, March 1st vs. Canton Charge (3:30 pm ET). 

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