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“I’m back I ain‘t gon‘ lie.” Justin Champagnie shines in Raptors 905 win

PLUS: an oral history of the Dunk that Wasn't

Final Score |  Raptors 905 111 – Capital City Go Go  103  | Box Score

Two Ways: Jeff Dowtin Jr. (905)

On Assignment: Justin Champagnie (905)

Justin Champagnie set a new season-high with 34 points and tied a career-high with five assists en route the Raptors 905’s (7-8) second straight win. It was Champagnie’s seventh game of the season coming off a back injury, and he finally looked like his fully spry self, bouncy in and around the rim, hair in-tow, finishing through contact, and talking himself up in that charming Champagnie bragadocio.

“They can’t mess with me down there, man,” Champagnie said of his 24 points in the paint. The Pitt product also went two-for-four from three point range, nudging his overall three point percentage up to 27.3. “I’m still trying to get my shot back, it’s kind of still on the ropes right now. A little bit more work and it’ll be back to normal. I just feel like when I got smaller guys guarding me I’m crafty enough to finish around the rim. I feel like I’m the most aggressive person on the court at all times, so if I can get to the basket and get easy twos I’m gonna get easy twos.” 

“He’s healthy now,” 905 two-way Jeff Dowtin Jr. said. “Even when he started playing the first couple games he was trying to figure himself out. Probably wasn’t 100% healthy but he was still giving his all. And now you can see… what did he finish with – 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists? That’s him.”

The 905 only dressed eight players, with two-way guard Ron Harper Jr. and double-double machine Reggie Perry out with minor injuries. But Champagnie stepped up, along with Dowtin, who persevered through physical defence and an inefficient shooting night from the field to log 23 points (6-17 FG, 9-9 effective FT), and 10 assists in a game-high 40 minutes. David Johnson, who was on a two-way with the Raptors last season, had 12 points and six assists, while the team boasted six players in double figures.

The 905 play the College Park Skyhawks on Friday before heading out to Las Vegas for the G League Showcase.

Player breakdowns

Justin Champagnie – 34 points (14-22 FG, 2-4 3FG), 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 6 turnovers

With a short-handed lineup Champagnie was free to try – and succeed at – everything: postups, iso-ball, spot up threes, step-up threes, well-timed off-ball cuts, dribble handoffs, and pick-and-rolls as the ball handler and the screener. He was also a key cog in containing Capital City’s speedy backcourt and clearing the glass with the formidable Vernon Carey Jr., who holds a three inch and 60 pound edge. Champagnie also inspired his team with a tenuous dive on the floor for a loose ball that left him wincing for a brief moment.

“I’m back I ain’t gon’ lie,” Champagnie said as he left the post game media session.

Jeff Dowtin Jr. – 23 points (6-17 FG, 2-6 3FG, 9-9 effective FT), 10 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 turnovers

Dowtin might be the most poised Raptors 905 player since Lorenzo Brown won the MVP for them in 2018. Despite missing eight of his first 10 shots and getting bodied and battered from the second he crossed half court, Dowtin never waivered. He continued to get into the paint, drew fouls, made all his free throws, and sprayed out to his teammates for 10 assists to just two turnovers. With the 905 wresting control of the game from Capital City in the second half, Dowtin hit a three plus a foul, attacked a switch for a filthy dribble drive layup, did his best Dirk Nowitzki with a one-footed fading leaner from the elbow, and dished the dagger-assist (if there’s such a thing) to put the 905 up 10 in the final minute.

“I think we’re starting to gel together a lot within these last couple of games,” Dowtin said of his team that’s responded from a six game losing streak to win three of its last four contests. “We’re starting to figure out how guys like to score, where they’re comfortable at. It’s my job to find guys in their spots. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of doing that but we’re still learning each other, still figuring out where guys like to score, and you can see that on the court.” 

David Johnson – 12 points, 6 assists, the Dunk that Wasn’t

Johnson is still seeking that illusive consistency, which he never found as a two-way with the Raptors last season due to injury and the bumps that come with being a new pro. On Wednesday, for the second straight game, Johnson shot 50% from the field, and attacked the rim with fervour. Johnson scored all his points in the paint, which included a lovely euro-step, a staggering standstill jump for what was essentially a dunk, and a beautiful bunny that went high off glass.

But Johnson will probably only be thinking of this near miss:

https://www.youtube.com/shorts/c5Ih88z-rds

“Thought he had it,” Champagnie lamented. “Would have been lit. That’s just him getting back to his old self. I played against David in college and I’ve seen him do that plenty of times. It was good to see him try it, just try to get his feet back under him. He gotta make that though because if he would have made that it would have been a rap from that point right there. But I’m happy for David. These last two games he’s playing really well and he stepped up big, especially today. He’s getting his feet back under him, had a couple injuries and whatnot but he’s gonna be great.” 

“I feel like I wanted him to dunk that more than anybody,” Raptors 905 centre Kenny Wooten said. “I’ve always wanted to see one of his posters. I seen all the ones that he got from last year and all that stuff. I really just want to see him hammer it on somebody. I know he’s gonna do one sooner than later so I’m just waiting. I really wanted that one. But certainly later on I know he’s gonna dunk that.” 

“Just finish the play!” Dowtin thought after Johnson got the step. “David made a great move, got to the rim. We was all excited for him to finish the dunk and make a highlight. David’s being aggressive, not just looking to score but David had six assists today as well. Just playing within the offence, being aggressive finding his spots. Great game from David too.” 


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