Game tied at 123 in front of 2,340 fans. Next point wins. It was overtime in South Dakota.
Reggie Perry tried to score from the perimeter, but got walled off by Sioux Falls’ defence, so he passed it out to David Johnson.
Perry stuck his hand out, calling for the ball. His hand, his body language screamed, “Give me the damn ball, let me score this!” In pick-up ball, you feed your star player for the 11th point if you want to stay in the game. This was the G League version of that.
Instead of deferring to Perry, David Johnson, who attempted two threes earlier in the game, confidently launched a triple from the left wing. As the shot went up, Perry smacked his hands at the missed opportunity because, you know, the usual play is to feed your star. But the shot and splash caught everyone by surprise, ending an otherwise unclutch free throw shooting game.
The stage was set for DJ to rise to the occasion because Skyforce’s DJ Stewart missed a free throw at the end of the fourth to put his team up by one. Then a three-point attempt by Ron Harper failed. That forced the game into overtime.
In overtime, Canadian Mychal Mulder was questionably fouled by Hassani Gravett, who contested fairly. Mulder needed to hit all three free throws to hit the 124 target score. Mulder missed the first and hit the next two. Harper then had the chance to put the game away, but he missed the second of his two freebies. 123-123. Then, DJ Stewart goes to the line for a chance to redeem his miss in regulation, but then blows it away, missing both! It was like watching one of those Tangerine halftime shooting games, where you feel bad for the fan missing shots that could have made them 150-200 bucks richer.
Before the game came down to the wire, it was close throughout. The biggest lead was under double digits — the largest, nine points for the 905 — and there were 18 lead changes and 12 ties. The Skyforce had no assignees nor two-ways, and the 905 had one two-way in Harper.
The 905 took the lead midway through the second quarter, and went into the first half with a five-point lead, 65-60. While they hung onto a lead until the end of the fourth, they gave up 13 of their 18 turnovers in the second half.
An away game in South Dakota in the first half of the regular season may seem low stakes, but the 905 seemed to forget a basketball truism — that every possession matters.
In the final three minutes and six seconds, no team led by more than a one point, but such late-game coin-flip scenarios could have been averted had the 905 taken better care of the ball, and played better transition defence throughout the game. Part of being a great basketball team requires excellent execution of the mundane — that’s limiting turnovers and reducing the opponent’s scoring probability o each defensive play. Not giving up easy buckets like these.
A win is a win, but if the 905 wants to maintain a culture of excellence and continue to be one of NBA’s premier development programs, basketball has to be played through all 48 minutes and beyond.
Ron Harper had another solid game with 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting. He hit some big shots in clutch time, hitting a three to give the 905 a five-point lead. He also hit a tough lay-up to put his team up when they were down one with less than 10 seconds in regulation.
Reggie Perry had 24 points on 7-for-16 shooting, and played a lot of bully ball. He commanded double teams, and his frustration, rightfully, at the officials continued to grow throughout the game. He scored the most points at the line with nine, but also had the most turnovers with eight (three in the third and four in the fourth).
In the fourth, Perry was able to channel some of his frustration into productive offensive outputs. He had 10 points on 3-of-4 field goal shooting. He also had a great pocket pass into David Johnson in clutch time. Perry was tasked with switching onto smaller guards in this game, and I thought he did a good job shuffling his feet, and containing players smaller and faster than him.
Dalano was on the sidelines, and Saben Lee is in Phoenix, but worry not, we had Hassani Gravett. He’s been on ten-days before, and he really played like wanted another. Gravett made two 3s, including a tough step-back triple in the third. He came alive in overtime, with back-to-back layups; he protected the ball on the first one, and then on the second, he used a Reggie screen, finished on the left side with a right-handed finish. Gravett may not have the length and stride of Dalano, or the explosiveness of Lee, but Gravett definitely filled their void with his play yesterday.
Gabe Brown had 15 points on 3-for-6 shooting from downtown.
David Johnson was a Raptors 2021 second round pick, though some may have forgotten about him. He has talked about wanting to become a better shooter this season. He attempted 6.5 threes per game last full G League season, and went 9-for-36 (25%) this Showcase Cup season, but is now shooting 7-for-16 (44%) this regular season.
Despite making a late fourth quarter turnover, and missing two 3s in the fourth, his ability to remain undeterred, and shooting the open shot to end the game is big. Beneath his mild-mannered exterior lies a very confident individual. And Johnson likely knows taking those type of shots is how you improve your three-point shooting.
Aaron Epps had an impressive third quarter with eight points, shooting a perfect 3-for-3 from the field in less than four minutes. Epps subbed in for Perry, he was the only big on the floor, and immediately made an impact. He was very agile and had great hands, especially when he caught the lob pass, drew the foul, and got to the line. He finished the game with 12 points in less than 11 minutes on 5-for-6 shooting.
Darryl Morsell continued to be a solid role player, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds, and five assists with two steals. He hit two threes, but not all threes are equal. In the dying seconds of the third quarter, he connected on a beautiful pass thrown by Johnson to the right corner 3. Hitting that triple not only completed a great offensive play, but also gave the 905 a three-point lead going into the fourth.