Raptors 905 win in a thriller comeback in season opener

A thriller comeback win in the Raptor 905's first game of the G-League season.

One of the best components of the G League — and the worst — is the constant roster turnover every season. You blink, and in come players like Kevon Harris. Then as quick as they enter the franchise, they’re gone. The team even cycles through head coaches quite quickly, with newcomer Eric Khoury — “too smart to be in basketball” — taking the reins for the first time this season.

Fortunately for the Raptors 905 and fans of the team both, some holdovers remain this season. One of last year’s best players, Reggie Perry, remains with the team as the starting center. And those who watched preseason closely would have some idea of the talents of incomers Jeff Dowtin jr. and Gabe Brown. So the team shouldn’t be entirely new. But there’s a learning curve that comes with a new season.

That learning curve exists for fans and for the 905 themselves. In the Raptors’ first game, they were down by 15 points at half and seemed discombobulated on both ends. Ron Harper jr. opened the game with a deadly stepback triple to give the 905 the lead, but it was downhill from there. Dowtin and Harper were scoring well and efficiently, but everyone else missed shot after shot. Meanwhile, the athletic Vernon Carey jr. was shredding the 905 on the defensive end. Virtually everything for the Capital City Go Go was a triple or a layup, as they built a 23-point lead midway through the second quarter.

Something clicked at halftime. The 905 created a parade of layups in the third to close the lead to single digits, as the 905 finally came alive in transition, and Perry’s offensive rebounding kept those possessions going that didn’t end up in points. Starting guard Saben Lee was especially brilliant on the defensive end, poaching lanes to tip away lackadaisical passes. He finished with an O.G. Anunoby-esque four steals. He and Dowtin were brilliant together at reaching the paint on the offensive end, letting all else flow from penetration.

In the fourth, the 905 reclaimed the lead for the first time since 3-0 on further work from the two guards. Dowtin hit a midranger to tie, and then Lee stole the ball and finished in transition to give the 905 the 106-104 lead. Free throws put the game away from there.

It was a wild game to give Khoury his first career win as a head coach. The team celebrated in style after the huge comeback.

With Justin Champagnie out, the Raptors 905 played ferociously to win their season opener. Dowtin especially proved too good for the league right out of the box, which makes sense given his control of the game with the ball in his hands. That skill is valuable anywhere. New coach, new stars, new everything: same result. The 905 have been one of the most successful G-League franchises over the last several years, and it shows in games like last night’s contest. Everything changes every season for the 905 except for the team’s heart.

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