Final Score | Raptors 905 94- Capital City Go-Go 120 | Box Score
Two Ways: David Johnson (905), Justin Champagnie (905), Cassius Winston (Go-Go), Joel Ayayi (Go-Go)
On Assignment – Dalano Banton (905), Isaac Bonga (905), Malachi Flynn (905)
Inactive: Josh Hall (905)
It was the first “school” game for the 905 in over two years, as well as the first game at the Big Bank arena, with thousands of students packing the seats of Scotiabank Arena for a day away from the classroom. The energy was electric, but the 905’s start was not. Missed baskets soured the atmosphere, with fans standing until nearly 5 minutes into the first quarter before the 905 scored a basket. Despite the rocky start, the 905 managed to keep their composure, regroup, and defeat the Capital City Go-Go 120-113, splitting the series 1-1.
Bench Production: After a 20-0 run for the Go-Go, it appeared that this game was an almost guaranteed loss. The 905 starters could not buy a basket, going 0 for 9 until Coach Patrick Mutombo called a timeout at the 7:39 mark to rally his team and try something new. Enter the kamikaze crew, as Mutombo dubbed the second unit, and the pace and production of the game changed immediately. Isaac Bonga, who has played the most with the 905 out of the assignees and two-ways, fed the ball to Reggie Perry on the inside to give the 905 their first points of the game out of the timeout. Bonga finished the quarter with 5 points of his own after taking over and running the offence, something Patrick Mutombo praised him for after the game. Dalano Banton steadied the second unit and the big 3 of Banton, Bonga, and Perry, with the help from Ashton Hagans, cut the lead to just 7 points at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was a much more accurate showing of what the 905 are capable of. The first possession was a quick layup from Malachi Flynn, followed by an Isaac Bonga transition layup. The ball movement, something the 905 execute well, was much less stagnant than the first quarter, with Malachi finding the curling Dalano Banton for another layup and Dalano picking off the Go-Go pass, resulting in a Bonga dunk. The 905 went on their own run, leading 32-28 before forcing Capital City to call a timeout at the 9:27 mark of the second quarter.
The lead disappeared once again in the third quarter, but the 905, and the bench in particular, came out hungrier and more driven than the Go-Go, and it showed in the end result.
Single Game: The loss against the Go-Go on Saturday could be chalked up to the same team playing two different games. The assignees and the two-ways were playing a 3 on 5 game while the rest of the 905 appeared to be an afterthought of sorts, wondering where they were supposed to fit in to what the other 3 were running. This game could not have been any more different, and the difference in play style was the impact of Isaac Bonga. He ran the offence for the entire team, not just himself or the NBA guys. He involved everyone, highlighting his teammates strengths and covering up their weaknesses. He did not force the ball into his own hands or the hands of the guys from the big club, choosing instead to feed the likes of Reggie Perry, Breein Tyree, and Ashton Hagans, all of whose effort, drive, and team play solidified the win.
Ashton Hagans: Ashton Hagans missed the first few series due to injury, but he is my “one to watch” this season. His defence alone is a movie, guarding opponents closer than their own shadows. For someone who defends so hard to finish the game with only 2 fouls is incredible. His selfless play is what makes a G League player successful, makes scouts take notice, and what will get him to the next level. He isn’t a box score darling, but he has the kind of impact that can’t be measured by statistics. If I were to compare him to any player from 905 rosters past, it would be Gary Payton II, and we all know how that story turned out.
Start: A 20-0 run is humiliating, especially for a home team, and even more so when the stars of the parent club, along with the General Manager, are in attendance. The 905 attempted 9 shots in the first 5 minutes, most of them being blown layups. Perhaps it was Big Bank Arena jitters, or they just weren’t on their game, but shots that should have been easy makes became impossible, and it took 2 timeouts for the 905 to right the ship.
Finishing: The 905’s ability to finish at the rim seems to be decreasing with each game. They were more outsized than usual against the Go-Go, but even open lane drives appeared impossible. The more difficult the shot, the more likely it is to go in for the 905, especially on the inside. Banking it off the glass should not be easier than laying it up and in. Working on the simple mechanics will clean this up easily, otherwise we are in for some very weird and very frustrating basketball.
Sharing: Look, it’s fine to come down and pad your stats, but never at the expense of your teammates. There were multiple instances where the assignees and two-ways refused to share the ball, passing up open teammates to get their own shots. The only time you should be passing up a shot is because someone else has a better one. One instance that sticks out is Dalano Banton, already with 27 points, grabbing a pass intended for Obadiah Noel and putting it in by himself. That’s not cool, man.
No Burn: Having 2 two-way players and 3 assignees means that a large portion of the roster won’t be seeing minutes whenever they are down with the team. Today is was Alex Antetokounmpo, Jawun Evans, Romaro Gill, Kevon Harris, and Andrew Rowsey who didn’t see the court. Evans played a single minute in the prior meeting between these two teams, while Gill played 9. Rowsey and Antetokounmpo have not seen the court since series against Delaware. This is the way the cookie crumbles in the G League, and these guys are professionals, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
The Raptors 905 will take on the Maine Celtics on Thursday, November 9th at 7:30 at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre.