The refs reviewed Reggie Perry’s turnaround fadeaway as the raucous crowd of 3,740 waited anxiously on Remembrance Day night.
The 905, who rushed the court instantly, may have celebrated a bit too early. After waiting for the final decision, the refs ruled no violation, the 905 had inbounded within five seconds. The Westchester Knicks only had 0.2 seconds to get the ball in from the sidelines. No basket made, the game was over.
The 905 escaped with a 110-109 nail-biting victory at Paramount while its parent team played against three Canadians – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, and Eugene Omoruyi – in Oklahoma City.
In the post-game interviews, Akil Augustine asked Eric Khoury about his biggest takeaway. A pause ensued. “We got room for improvement,” he stated matter-of-factly. He repeated, “We got lots of room for improvement.”
“The fourth quarter was a good sign offensively, but there’s still a lot of stuff we have to clean up – we want to win the Showcase Cup,” he said. Referring to Perry’s fadeaway, he said, “It’s good that that shot went in, but that game was a coin flip, and we gotta make sure we’re not in too many coin flips.”
Westchester led 54-50 going into the second half and built a 11-point lead by the end of the third quarter, leading 79-68. The 905 had to fight extra hard in the fourth to compensate. Khoury took a timeout with 4:27 left in the game, trailing 100-90. Within 40 seconds, the Westchester lead narrowed from 10 to five.
That’s when the home crowd started chanting, “Defense! Defense!” and everyone inside Paramount felt the advantages of home court basketball.
3 minutes and 32 seconds left in the game, the 905 clamped down defensively. Saben Lee got a block in the right corner 3 area after Jeff Dowtin blocked a shot, leading to a transition offensive play by Lee. He eurostepped, got the bucket, and the crowd erupted as it became a three-point game.
With 2:35 left, Dowtin blocked M.J. Malker’s three (Dowtin had a total three blocks), pushed the ball coast-to-coast, crossed over into his right hand and pulled up from the top of the arc. Walker reacted a little too late. Splash. The 905 was up by two. His celebration was deja vu from the night before when he made a momentum-shifting triple in the third quarter. On Friday’s broadcast, after forcing Westchester to take a timeout, he can be heard yelling, “Get these brothers out of here!” (the PG version).
Knicks star guard James Akinjo tied the game with a floater, but Reggie Perry answered back hitting a perfect three. In the final 1 minute and 49 seconds, the 905 couldn’t capitalize on Akinjo’s hero ball attempts (he missed a three and a good fadeaway shot attempt over Perry from the foul line).
With less than 13 seconds left, Akinjo was forced to foul after turning the ball over as he dribbled too fast. Lee converted Akinjo’s mistake into two made free throws; however, Lee went 3-for-6 from the charity stripe with less than 20 seconds left in the game, missing two crucial ones that could have put the 905 up two or three.
Akinjo drove the lane in the dying seconds, got to the free throw line (though reviewing the film, it looks like a travel imho), and hit both, putting Westchester up one.
But then, Sauga’s biggest plot twist of the weekend happened. For details, see above.
Four games into the preseason, the 905 are 3-1, with the goal to win the Showcase Cup. Getting there will require more consistency across the game. In their season opener, they waited until the second half to turn it on, and on Thursday night on the first of a back-to-back, they had a weak third quarter despite getting the W. Late-game surges won’t always work.
They can’t allow defensive errors like these. Perry should have Xed-out here and contested the corner 3. David Johnson threw the “Come on, man!” hands up in the air and defensive lapses like these can deflate team morale, especially when it results in a lead going up, unnecessarily, from five to eight.
On the flipside, when the stakes got higher, Lee picked up Akinjo in the backcourt, and the entire team collectively stopped the Knicks’ star. Melvin Frazier and Perry took turns switching on screens, and then a loose ball foul by Garrison Brooks got 905 to the foul line.
And on offense, this stellar ball movement requires second viewing.
Three-point shooting is a premium NBA skill, and on Friday night, Dowtin got exactly the type of reps he needs.
Perry’s shot will likely overshadow Dowtin’s fourth quarter performance, where he hit three 3s (attempting five of them), all which contributed to the late-game surge.
After his first 3 of the game fell short, he remained unfazed and hit three consecutive ones. The first make, he went to his right hand, did his signature step back move and hit the shot with 6-foot-9 Brooks in his face. That narrowed the lead from 11 to 8.
The second one, he received a DHO from Gabe Brown, dribbled to his right, and knocked it down with M.J. Walker in his face, narrowing the lead from nine to six.
His third, he pushed it coast-to-coast, crossed over into his right hand, and pulled up from the top of the arc. Walker reacted a little too late and the 905 led by two. This was their first lead since the end of the second quarter.
Given Dowtin’s awkward-looking shot, where he seems to gather momentum from his dribble, he’ll need more than his step-back threes (e.g. becoming a consistent catch-and-shoot three-point shooter) if he wants to become consistent threat beyond the arc.
Perry knows he can expect calls from NBA teams with shots like these.
But what was most impressive was his improved decision-making and poise. In the first half, he passed to a cutting Ryan Hawkins and on another possession, looked for him in the corner, rather than hoisting up mid-range jumpers. He took 14 shots in the game, only one was a middy.
“Most of the time if the mid-range is open that means I can take my time and playmake,” Perry said. “Definitely need to take a bit more time – I had 10 turnovers tonight.” Perry possesses the self-awareness to know what he needs to improve on, but also understands he can get his by creating for others. By distributing the ball instead of taking bad shots, he knows his own stats, like his field-goal percentage, can improve.
“It definitely makes the game easier when I start playmaking first and then trying to score second,” he said. But he won’t hesitate to shoot if he’s wide open or there’s less than eight seconds on the shot clock.
Secondly, Perry played with poise. He kept his cool when called for a travel in the third quarter with his team down nine. When Perry subbed in the fourth quarter, he was stripped twice, but kept playing through it. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, but was able to turn his fourth-quarter mistakes into making open threes, both off the picks he set. When frustrated, he’s committed a flagrant against Capital City and got a Ted up on Thursday night.
The 905 go on a two-game road trip against the Greensboro Swarm (LiAngelo Ball is still on the roster) and Delaware Blue Coats, where former Raptor Patrick McCaw, former 905 Justin Smith, Canadian Karim Mane, and Justin Champagnie’s brother, Julian, plays). For the 905 super fans, Tuesday’s game against Greensboro can be livestreamed for free here.