Final Score: Iowa Wolves 124 – Raptors 905 132 | Box Score
The Raptors 905 keep on winning and don’t make any excuses.
They don’t dwell on the shortened, condensed schedule. A 15-game season with back-to-backs that include early games, including a 3:30 pm EST start on Thursday against the Iowa Wolves.
They don’t dwell on the roster changes, a staple for any G League franchise.
Finally, they don’t dwell on playing in the Orlando bubble, the restrictions, and the COVID-19 protocols. It’s a lot to juggle with for the players and coaches, trying to balance on-court performance with persevering physical and mental health away from the game.
The 905 checks all the boxes. With their seventh straight victory on Thursday, a 132-124 win over the Wolves, the 905 sit atop the G League standings with an 11-3 record.
The secret to their success? An immense will to win, according to Raptors 905 head coach Patrick Mutombo.
“The guys are interested in winning,” Mutombo said. “I always tell him there’s a difference between being interested in winning, and just being borderline obsessed with winning. I think understanding that we want to look beyond just interest, and we want to go get these wins. We won games that we had no business winning and I think that’s a testament to our guys really buying in and wanting to go the extra mile to get it done.”
It’s no secret the Wolves’ disappointing season, ranked dead last in the G League standings. But they’ve kept games close and Thursday’s against the 905 was no exception. The Wolves shot 56 percent from the field, with 24 three-pointers, keeping them within striking distance for large parts of the game.
But the 905’s maturity and experience ultimately propelled them to victory. Their selfless play, entrenched in the fabric of Mutombo’s team, allowed for balanced scoring; the 905 had five players in double-digit points, three of them scoring over 20 points.
One of those players was Nik Stauskas. The Canadian guard led the 905 in scoring on Thursday with 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field. As the game went on, Stauskas became more confident with his shot, evidenced by his seven three-pointers.
Stauskas, who is using this opportunity with the 905 to revitalize his career, bought into the team’s culture of selflessness. It’s paying off for the 27-year-old.
“I think we’ve started to realize that when we communicate defensively and we move the ball on offense things are very simple out there,” Stauskas said. “Everyone’s going to look better. I think everyone’s kind of bought into that, everyone’s bought into what the coaches have said, everyone’s willing to share the ball and make the extra effort on defense. I think that’s led to this win streak we are on.”
It wasn’t just Stauskas providing the scoring on Thursday. Alize Johnson, who recorded the fastest double-double in Raptors 905 history in Wednesday’s game, followed it up with 25 points and nine rebounds against the Wolves. He continues to play with intensity around the rim, using his hands and feet to protect the glass. Henry Ellenson continues to lead the Raptors 905 in scoring, putting up 27 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor on Thursday. Not only is he effective scoring inside but he showed his range against Iowa, such as this corner three on the pass from Matt Mooney:
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) March 4, 2021
The 905 continue to dominate in transition, creating turnovers that lead to offense on the fast-break. No better example than Gary Payton II, who used his speed to make room for an emphatic slam dunk, two of his eight points against Iowa:
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) March 4, 2021
Mutombo stresses that there is room for growth with his team. With one game remaining and playoffs upcoming, a lot of eyeballs will be on the 905 and their players in the coming week.
But given all the external factors, the 905 don’t make excuses, with their sole focus on winning.
“They are tough they are mentally tough,” Mutombo said. “They’ve never used it as an excuse to grab on. The schedule is tough for everybody. And guys have just been able to be mentally ready and they have allowed us to present to them whatever needed to be presented. They just didn’t take it as an excuse. We didn’t accept it. We just say this is when we are playing so be it.”
Raptors 905 Notes:
– Jalen Harris returns to the 905 after a brief stint with the Toronto Raptors. Harris, who is now in quarantine protocols, may be available for the 905 in the G League playoffs. Nothing confirmed yet from the team or Patrick Mutombo.
– Raptors 10-day player Donta Hall was called up to the big club from the 905.
– G League Playoffs begin on March 8th. 905 Schedule/time TBD.
– Next Game: Saturday, March 6th vs. Lakeland (11 AM EST).