Saben Lee’s triple saves the 905 once, but not twice, in Iowa

The 905 played the last two games of 2022 in Nick Nurse's home state. They split the series agains the Iowa Wolves, 1-1.

The last two 905 games of 2022 came down to the wire in Nick Nurse’s home state: Iowa. Saben Lee returned to the 905 after spending less than a month with the Sixers on a two-way contract.

In the first game, Dalano Banton attacked the paint, drew the help defence, and kicked the ball right into the Lee’s hands, for the coveted open corner 3. Splash. That gave the 905 a five-point lead with 22 seconds on the clock.

In the second game, an unnecessary technical foul called on “Jordan “JBo” Bohannon artificially made the game closer than it should’ve been. Bohannon, who had been 4-for-7 beyond the arc before hitting his fifth one, had some words for Ron Harper after his final triple pushed the Wolves’ lead up to seven, with 47 seconds left. The banter was friendly, both showing their pearly whites. To everyone’s surprise, “JBo” was slapped with a T.

The officiating in the second game was questionable at best. At one point in the third quarter, Brent Haskill was heard through the mics, imploring the players to stop complaining. “We’re done talking, okay!” he commanded. “Let’s just play basketball!”

JBo’s technical sent Banton to the line, who hit the free throw, and then he capitalized on the 905 possession, making it a four-point game with 38 seconds. But Lee was overeager to make another fourth quarter heroic play happen, hoisting a step-back triple from the top of the arc with ample time left on the clock. It wasn’t close, and the 905 ended up splitting the two games against Iowa, 1-1.

In the first game, the 905 maintained their lead in the third quarter, but almost let the third slip in the second game. In the second game, Banton’s heroics at the start of the fourth almost got the 905 out of a 10-point deficit. He single-handedly led his team on a 10-2 run in just over two minutes. He hit the first two buckets, made a three, and then another step back three, en route to 35 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. He had 19 points in the final frame alone, showing his improved three-point shooting (thank Jonathan for the incredible in-depth analysis), going 4-for-5 from three. Banton had a G League career-high 37 points with nine boards and four dimes in the first game, and his two-game performance screamed he didn’t belong here.

Team Notes

The 905 had an NBA assignee in Banton, and a bigger roster compared to Iowa, who was undermanned to seven players on the first night, eight on the second.

Behind the arc, the 905 out-attempted Iowa both games, shooting 12-for-39 (31%) and 16-for-45 (36%) compared to Iowa’s 11-for-38 (29%) and 15-for-35 (43%). Being 33% from three through two games is nothing to write home about, and the 905 will need to continue improving when 3s are being attempted at a high rate.

What most stood out this game was the 905 displaying patience on offence, passing the ball around the perimeter, looking for the optimal option. In the first quarter, they made five passes before putting up a shot. Banton passed to Lee on the wing, Lee drove, and kicked it out to Hassani Gravett. Gravett then swing the ball out to Gabe Brown on the right wing, who then dished it out to the point of attack. Banton faked the pass and passed it out to Perry. It didn’t lead to a bucket, but it was beautiful basketball. They passed the ball around fives times again in the third, and this is what it looks like when it converts into a basket.

Player notes

NBA Watch

NBA front offices can start signing players to 10-days on Thursday, January 5th.

Based on the second game I watched (I couldn’t access the stream for the first game), Reggie Perry had a great second quarter, though he racked up four fouls. As per usual, he made amazing passes out of the high post. He passed the ball out to Harper in the left corner for a triple, then drew two guys on him with a fake DHO and whipped the pass to Brown on the weakside corner for a triple.

Perry had 25, 9, and 3, so his dimes really stood out, and he made key plays in the 905’s scoring run, including the offensive board and put back that put the 905 within four points late in the fourth.

My only criticism is Perry’s frustrations still get the best of him, at times. After coming off the bench to avoid fouling out, he felt the need to make his mark. In one particular offensive possession, Perry forced an awkward shot deep in the paint after getting double-teamed. Perry has high basketball IQ and court awareness, so it’s unlikely that he didn’t notice Harper was open for a better shot.

Saben Lee‘s phone will likely ring again, very soon. For the time being, it’s great to have him back. But if Lee has trouble sticking in the League, it’ll be difficult for other guards (Sterling Brown, Gabe Brown) to get a call up.

The 905 are still on the road as they play the Long Island Nets tonight and Wednesday. They return to Paramount Fine Foods Centre on Monday, January 9th.

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