Over Just Blaze’s sonic magic, the ‘Song Cry’ instrumental, Aubrey Graham asked, “How you getting hype off one hit? Do that shit again” on the ‘When to Say When’ track.
The 905 smothered a Sharife Cooper-less Cleveland Charge team, 136-100, last Thursday, dominating all four quarters. Then, on Saturday, the 905 took their first lead since the first quarter when Sterling Brown hit a right corner triple with 1:24 left in the game. They kept chipping away and escaped with a 124-118 victory. The 905 manifested the parallels between 905 basketball and the 6 God’s lyrics.
Coach Eric Khoury mentioned the game being “a tale of two halves” as the 905 had close to half their total 19 turnovers in the first quarter (nine in Q1).
Both nights, the Charge only played a seven-man roster, and Cooper was not his full self on Saturday, so the 905 took full advantage. Khoury mentioned paying little attention to team standings, that Cleveland was a Beast in the East, due to constant personnel turnover in the G League.
The parent team is currently facing an undergraduate-esque “Who am I? Why are we here? What is the point of playing basketball amid trade rumours and a potential playoff miss?” existential crisis. In contrast, the 905 must continue to grind, and stay competitive due to job precarity. By the way, if you’re tired of watching the Raptors, but want to watch some live basketball with your family, minus Scotiabank admission prices, now would be the best time to watch the 905.
The 905 got killed in the second quarter with three balls; the Charge went 8-for-13 from downtown. Jordan Allen shot 4-for-5 in the second quarter after going 2-for-2 in the first. Broadcaster Warren Ward was laughing at Allen for shaking his shooting arm in the second half, desperately trying to find his superpower back. Allen went scoreless from deep, on zero-for-three attempts, in the second half.
Over two games, the 905 did a decent job containing Cleveland’s two bigs, two-way player Isaiah Mobley and Jamorko Pickett – or at least, prevented their scoring from getting too out of hand. Mobley had 18 points on the first night, and 22 on the second. He only had three buckets inside the paint in the first game, but he feasted there in the first quarter of the second game. The 905 quickly adapted as he only scored two paint 2s in the second half.
Pickett had 27 points on the first night, and 30 on the second. On the first night, only one bucket was conceded inside the paint. He had four threes, and earned 13 points at the charity stripe. On the second night, Pickett, again, hit four 3s, made six points at the free throw line, and five paint 2s were conceded.
Gabe Brown‘s in-game between-the-legs dunk (from the first night) requires another viewing.
At this moment, I don’t know how his defense would translate at the NBA level, but the Raptors need three-point shooting. His athleticism and transition speed is definitely League level, he has a seven-foot wingspan, and he’s been on the front office’s radar for some time, having made the training camp roster earlier this season.
Riding off his sky-high confidence from the first night, Brown had a nice uncontested, off-the-dribble three on the second night. As a lefty, he had a nice crossover from left to right, and hoisted it up. Getting more of these types of three-point reps will be important, and again, if you want to see a potential Raptor, now’d be a good time to go watch Gabe Brown.
He’ll also need to be put into more situations like below. His team was down four, late in the first quarter. Brown was guarded too closely off the catch and recognized this. He also commands the defense to play up on him because he’s a three-point threat, but how he uses his three-point shooting ability to create for others remains to be seen.
He could have threaded the needle with a bounce or pocket pass, could have taken the second dribble to get a better angle, made the pass to Tra-Deon Hollins instead for the open three as Sharife Cooper came to tag. A pass to Hollins would have allowed a clear lane penetration, and created a potentially wide open corner three for Ryan Hawkins. For Brown, making these quick reads will be crucial if he wishes to play in The Association.
Ryan Hawkins is not a great on-ball defender, and when players get momentum, he has a hard time keeping up with them. But he had two steals on Saturday night, and his hustle plays earned him the G League-equivalent of the Reggie Evans award. His steal in the third quarter, capitalized by a fast break dunk got the 905 within eight points, closest they’ve been since mid-point of the second quarter. Hawkins’ hustle play was such a momentum-shifter that Hollins had to throw in an extra flex on inbounder.
Jeff Dowtin needs to increase his three-point shot attempts per game, and only took two on Saturday (after attempting four on Thursday), but he did take this ballsy, step-back three with his team up only one point. One thing to note: he shot this off-the-dribble three more like a set shot. He has/had the tendency to shoot using his momentum, almost kicking and flailing his legs out on deep shots. Whether he’ll continue to shoot with a different form, and how this will impact his shooting remains to be seen.
Jeremiah Tilmon is a throwback 6’10” centre. He came off the bench in the first quarter, and played right through a non-call (a skill one of his star teammates could learn from). He’s great down low and loves to do the dirty work. The 905 is lucky to have a traditional centre in an era where bigs have started to drift out to the three, and face up in the post. Hopefully his time here will catapult him into better leagues than Romania’s Divizia A.
David Johnson is developing quietly. He’s really found confidence in his shot. There was even one possession where he overlooked Reggie Perry, who was calling for the ball in the post, and decided to fire it away and nailed it.
Tra-Deon Hollins is a versatile, wiry guard, but only two games in, it’s hard to make any sweeping generalizations.
The Raptors 905 face the Maine Celtics tonight at 7:30 PM.
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