2,875 fans came out to watch the Raptors 905 play last night. It was also head coach Eric Khoury’s first home win, and fans got to see Justin Champagnie support his 905 squad as he nursed a back sprain.
It was a close and entertaining game for the fans, with six lead changes and three ties.
Even though the 905 let the Knicks get away with a 13-point lead midway through the second quarter, a pass by Ron Harper to Gabe Brown for a knock-down three tied the game at 57 apiece, near the second quarter’s end.
The 905 brought the game within three by halftime, trailing 62-59. In the third quarter, the 905 never the Knicks’ lead slip past eight points, and the home team slowly built their lead towards the end of the frame. Jeff Dowtin completed an and-1 play and hit his lone three of the game with 1:30 left in the third quarter, putting the 905 up 93-91.
In the fourth, the 905 drew their lead as far up as 10 when Kenny Wooten grabbed his own miss and put it in for an and-1 play. His free throw put his squad up by double digits with 4:51 left in the game. They won three quarters, the final one, 29-24, en route to a 122-115 victory.
The rebounding battle ended with 47 apiece and both teams had 32 fast break points. Despite the 905 shooting 6-for-24 (25%) from downtown compared to Westchester’s 13-for-36 (36%), the 905’s success was likely due to limiting turnovers to 14, while the Knicks had 21.
The 905 had 82 points in the paint (67% of their total points), and after going 1-for-4 (25%) on mid-range jumpers in the third quarter, the 905 played analytically-driven ball in the fourth. All shots were either in the paint or threes, notwithstanding Reggie Perry’s left elbow jumper.
Ron Harper will miss tonight’s game due to personal reasons, according to the post-game interview. Reggie Perry stated the difficulty of preparing for the second game of a back-to-back against the same team.
The Knicks have the ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting. MJ Walker came off the bench, poured in 6-for-12 from three, and led all scorers with 29 points. Stretching the floor creates room for Westchester’s bigs – Feron Hunt and Garrison Brooks – to operate freely.
Limiting their star guard James Akinjo’s scoring will be challenging as well.
The Raptors’ backcourt needs another reliable three-point shooter (Banton is 5-for-17 this season; Flynn, 5-for-10), and Harper and Dowtin have yet to prove they are threats.
Ron Harper had some great drives to the basket last night. In the third quarter, he got two feet in the paint and showed his strength inside. He also had a beautiful pass out of the post to Dowtin. He finished with 23 points on 10-for-19 shooting and grabbed 10 (four offensive) rebounds. He has, however, only shot 1-for-8 behind the arc through three games. Standing at 6’6’’, he will need to bring more to the table to get the call-up.
Jeff Dowtin had 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting, and hit his first three of the season, a momentum shifter late in the third. He also had seven assists. He’s currently 1-for-5 from beyond the arc, and has only attempted 1.7 per game through three games. He shot 9-for-23 (39%) in Summer League and attempted exactly four per game last G League season. Like Harper, he needs to show the front office that he can pull it from anywhere despite his awkward form.
With the Raptors missing three of their frontcourt players (Siakam, groin; Birch, knee soreness; and Achiuwa, right ankle), there’s currently only seven of them. Boucher can still be a defensive liability and Koloko is the only frontcourt player who can’t shoot from deep.
Whether Perry fits within Vision 6’9’’ remains a question mark. He signed 10-days with the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers last year, but he wants to stay focused on the now.
“What happened last year was good and all,” reflected Perry post-game. “But if I focus too much on that, I feel like I just get too comfortable.”
He’s focused on building off his success and improving every aspect of his game. “Just showing I can pass the ball, take care of the ball – I think I had five assists tonight – just trying to get [my assists] up each and every night while being able to score and rebound at the same time,” he said.
And he showed us that vision. He faked a dribble-hand-off and threw a Jokic-like pass to the cutter in the first half. He patiently waited for a cutting Saben Lee to throw a pass in the third quarter. And then he threw this pass to Wooten, who made this huge play in the fourth.
Brown’s length (his 7’0” wingspan) stands out in live games, and he shot 2-for-7 beyond the arc. He’s currently attempting the most threes on the team, making 2.3 out of 6.7 (35%) per game. He slash inside and get to the hoop with his speed too.
Lee had a dazzling crossover and made an and-1 layup in the second quarter. His freakish athleticism screams at fans every time he throws a thunderous dunk in transition. Lee led the team with 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting.
But what stood out most was his humility post-game. He attributed his clairvoyant defensive reads on studying tons of film after games. The time he’s spent with the Pistons under Dwane Casey also makes his transition to Sauga easier.
“The defensive schemes are very similar just because Toronto and the 905 have similar principles,” said Lee. “And Coach Casey used a lot of the same tactics defensively, so I just feel like the coverages on the defensive end definitely helped me transition over here.”
The 905 will face Westchester again at Paramount Fine Foods Centre tonight at 7:30. To borrow Montell Jordan’s words, it’s Friday night and if you feel alright, you can join the party on the West Side here, watch it on NBA TV Canada, or stream it free here.