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Raptors 905 Exterminate Swarm, Finish With Best Record in G League

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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 04: Malachi Flynn #8 of the Toronto Raptors handles the ball during the game against the LA Clippers at Staples Center on May 04, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Final Score | Raptors 905  119 –  Greensboro Swarm 113| Box Score

Two Ways: David Johnson (905), Justin Champagnie (905), Scottie Lewis (Swarm)

On Assignment: Dalano Banton (905), Malachi Flynn (905), James Bouknight (Swarm), Kai Jones (Swarm), JT Thor (Swarm)

Inactive: Reggie Perry (905), Aaron Best (905), Isaac Bonga (905), Arnoldas Kulboka (Swarm), Norense Odiase (Swarm)

The Raptors 905 returned home to take on the Greensboro Swarm for their final game of the regular season. With 3 two-way players and 5 NBA assignees available, fans in attendance at the sold out Paramount Fine Foods Centre were treated to a fringe-NBA game that was action-packed from tip off. The back and forth between the two fastest paced teams in the league allowed for 17 ties and 15 lead changes before the 905 put their foot on the gas and were able to close out the season with another win. Fans who were hoping for extended Malachi Flynn minutes may have been disappointed seeing him play just over 14 minutes, but head coach Patrick Mutombo expressed that the short stint was due to Malachi being assigned strictly to return to conditioning. He scored 2 points on only 2 attempts, but his 4 assists show that he has developed past the iso point guard we once knew him as.

The Good:

Team Work Makes the Dream Work: At the beginning of the season, when the two-ways or assignees were available (with the exception of Isaac Bonga) it often felt like a 5 on 3 or 5 on 2 game, with the regular rotation players for the 905 being forced to take a back seat both on the court and on the bench. It was understandable – they wanted to crack the parent squad’s rotation and show off what they can do that would make them a secondary or tertiary option off the bench. But it was detrimental to the development of the 905 both individually and as a team. The stop-and-go offence and the lackluster defence made for a janky, displaced game that no one felt good about after the final buzzer, or at least not anyone who didn’t put up 30 points. As the end of the season grew closer, so did the team. Off the court there was no disconnect between “them” and “us.” They were laughing together, spending time together, cracking inside jokes and relishing in the brotherhood that only G League athletes can understand. On the court this camaraderie translated, with the players beginning to understand the schemes that the 905 run and the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates. Dalano Banton, whose 905 stat sheet was once decorated only with shot attempts and big points finished a single assist shy of a double-double. Justin Champagnie learned how to find his teammates from anywhere on the floor while still scoring at a high volume. His energy infects everyone playing with him, and his innate ability to keep his teammates’ spirits high will surely see him in the NBA for a long time.

Inside Game: The absence of Isaac Bonga and Reggie Perry could have allowed the Swarm to bulldoze the 905 on the interior, but the “next man up” mentality that Coach Mutombo has instilled in his players ensured that there would be no hollow plays on either end of the floor. 14 of Justin Champagnie’s 15 rebounds came on the defensive end. Justin Smith had 10 rebounds of his own while newcomer Michael Gilmore established his role as an interior threat by grabbing 9 rebounds. Relentless offensive pressure gave the 905 17 second chance points compared to the Swarm’s 5, and 64 of the Raptors 905’s 119 points came from in the paint.

Justin Smith: When Justin Smith joined the 905 mid-season, I was immediately enamored by his game. He somehow plays with such grace and calm while still putting his defenders on a poster. The past handful of games had not been particularly kind to Justin Smith, who struggled to find his rhythm after COVID. He fumbled loose balls and couldn’t finish at the rim with the ease and elegance we had grown accustomed to. Despite his slump, coach Mutombo chose to insert him into the starting lineup for multiple games, or to have him be one of the first players off of the bench. I asked coach Mutombo why he believed so strongly in Smith, and why he would continue to give him these chances when his performance has been skeletal, and he replied, simply, “He has not given me a reason not to trust him.” The trust Mutombo placed in Smith paid off, and with 18 points and 10 rebounds, the 905 do not win this game without him.

The Bad:

Foul Trouble: One of the reasons that the 905 trailed at the half, and why the Swarm held an 8 point lead that the 905 couldn’t seem to get in front of was because of early foul trouble. With 7 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter the 905 had already accumulated 5 team fouls, giving the Swarm 7 full minutes to get to the line on every foul.

The G League playoffs begin Tuesday, April 5th. Because the Raptors 905 finished in first place, they have a bye and will not play until Thursday, April 10th or Friday April 11th. 

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