Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

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The devil works hard but Markquis Nowell works harder

905 snap five-game skid with gutsy win over Texas Legends.

On the second night of a back-to-back and without key contributors like Gradey Dick, Jaysean Paige, Makur Maker, and Kobi Simmons, the available 905 players showed a ton of resilience.

None more than the team’s undrafted rookie guard.

Markquis Nowell’s 25 points spearheaded the Raptors 905 (2-5) to a 119-112 win over the Texas Legends (4-2) at home on Wednesday night.

It was a G League career-high in scoring for Nowell, 18 of those points came in the second half, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter. He splashed two timely triples in the final 12 minutes and sparked an 11-4 run that secured the win and snapped the team’s five-game losing streak.

“I got a feel for when to pick my spots,” Nowell said postgame on his mentality in the final quarter. “As a point guard your job is to facilitate first and when it’s crunch time, score the ball.

Let’s dive into his full stat line, because just mentioning his points, as impressive as his bucket-getting was, would be a disservice to the kind of impact the 24-year-old had in the victory.

Nowell also dished nine assists, nearly all of which helped flip the script from their loss to the Legends on Tuesday.

After giving up 149 points to Texas and allowing 80 points in the paint, it was clear right away yesterday that dominating the painted area was a priority for the 905, and that was evidenced by the early actions of Nowell.

Eight of his nine dimes came in the first half, five of which were on running layups, six of which were on shots inside the arc. It felt like every pass Nowell made was with the intention of getting his teammates quality looks at the hoop.

Raptors 905 were +30 on paint points going into halftime thanks to their collective willingness to get downhill and Nowell’s purposeful play.

It’s to no one’s surprise at five-foot-seven, Nowell was the smallest player on the court the entire game. But, if even just for a minute, people ignored the physical difference in stature between him and his opponents and focused solely on effort, they’d immediately see how imposing his presence is.

The Kansas-State product was a game-high plus-14 on the night and earned every single iota of that plus-minus rating.

Nowell proved that point even further when he decided to also lead the charge defensively. He had a game-high four steals and even managed to get two blocks. The second swat was especially notable as Nowell turned away a Jordan “Jelly” Walker three-point attempt, took the loose ball, and orchestrated what can only described as a Harlem Globetrotters-esque sequence.

“I can imagine it’s on Twitter quite a bit already,” 905 head coach Eric Khoury said after the game reflecting on that play initiated by Nowell. “His defence was great, his impact on the ball … Markquis’ ability to make the right reads and play-make was impressive too.”

His effort on that end was contagious as well. Right after that transition wizardry the next two trips for the 905 included a Freeman-Liberty steal plus dunk in transition and then Justice Winslow ate up a Justin Jackson layup attempt and forced a jump ball.

Speaking of defence, Nowell was a quintessential undersized yet pesky defender all night. It was giving shades of Fred VanVleet during his tenure with the 905 (and NBA Raptors) as Nowell was disturbing players much bigger than him in the post, along the perimeter and through passing lanes.

A great example was when Nowell got switched onto six-foot-seven Canadian Olivier-Maxence Propser in the final minute of the third quarter and he immediately dropped his hips, got up close, and poked the ball away.

To recap, Nowell led the team in points (25) and assists (9), while leading the game in steals (4) and plus-minus (+14). He also grabbed five rebounds, because, of course, he would.

Granted, he wasn’t the only impressive performer for the 905 on the night as Freeman-Liberty dropped 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists to follow up his 40-point performance from the game prior. Meanwhile, Mouhamadou Gueye added an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double with three blocks, and Justice Winslow provided 20 points off the bench (12 in the second half).

The Legends show did show some fight of their own as they went on a late 16-4 run that brought the game to within a single point with less than four minutes remaining. However, they couldn’t contain the 905 on the glass and the comeback effort fell just short. Texas allowed 17 offensive rebounds and subsequently were a minus-20 on second-chance baskets.

Canadian content

Montreal-born Prosper, known by most as “O-Max,” was impressive playing in his home country for the second straight night. The 21-year-old was especially impactful in the first half as he put up 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, drilling two threes as well.

He had dropped 23 points on Tuesday and was on pace to pass that mark easily, but coach Khoury made Prosper a defensive priority for his team coming out of halftime and stymied that momentum.

“We tried to really key in on the matchup,” Khoury said. “We got extra physical with him … keep him more on the perimeter … he was still able to get a couple of clean looks, at times it’s just a make or miss league.”

The 24th overall pick in the draft by the Dallas Mavericks managed just four points in the second half, all from the charity stripe and he finished with 22 total. Despite the quiet stint following the break, that’s still three consecutive 20+ point performances for Prosper.

Up next

The 905 will be away from Paramount Fine Foods Centre once more as they begin a three-game road trip on Saturday against the Birmingham Squadron.

“Winning,” Nowell said when asked what he’s focused on moving forward. “I just want to win games, today was a good one and hopefully this can get the ball rolling and we can get a couple of wins on the road.”