Fan Duel Toronto Raptors


Freeman-Liberty goes takeover mode as 905 hold on for a win vs. Gold

The guard simply couldn't be stopped in the second quarter.

Javon Freeman-Liberty’s 23-point performance led the Raptors 905 (5-8) to a narrow 110-107 victory over the Grand Rapids Gold (7-5) on Saturday afternoon.

Like he’s done many times this season, Freeman-Liberty had himself a takeover quarter. The combo guard went off for 16 points in the second quarter. Freeman-Liberty began the game going 5-for-5 from deep, drilling four threes in the second frame alone. The game’s leading scorer, Freeman-Liberty also grabbed eight rebounds and dished four assists.

This was also one game removed from dropping 37 points against the same Grand Rapids’ team in a loss on Wednesday.

Freeman-Liberty’s strong play helped the 905 open up a 65-41 lead at halftime, but it’s what he did coming out of the break that really impressed 905 head coach Eric Khoury.

“I thought Javon was unbelievably selfless today,” said Khoury. “Near the end of the first half they (Grand Rapids) just went full-on denials of him … if they’re going to deny you, that’s going to open huge driving gaps for the rest of the guys.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Coming out of halftime Khoury drew up a play that used JFL as a screener, and because of the gravity he has as a scorer, the defence hugged him and it got Kobi Simmons open for a cut and lob-dunk at the basket.

“Some players would get frustrated with that and say ‘just give me the ball,'” Khoury said about the play after halftime. “And he (Freeman-Liberty) kept saying ‘hey run it again, run it again,’ like he knew if that’s how they’re going to guard, then we’ll just keep attacking the rim.”

Although Freeman-Liberty’s willingness to move the ball and let others take charge of the offence was commendable, it didn’t exactly result in a lot of success. The 905 led by as many as 18 points in the third but got outscored 35-24 in the frame and went into the fourth quarter up just five points.

That lead only continued to shrink throughout the fourth as the Gold worked the deficit down one possession multiple times in the final minute.

Before the game, coach Khoury described Justise Winslow as “a high-level NBA defender,” when speaking about how the forward has helped the 905 defence hit a different level.

Khoury’s words aged like fine wine as Winslow made the biggest defensive play of the game, in the final 10 seconds. The 905 were up 108-107 and required one final stop to all but seal the deal.

The forward had to essentially play centre for the final possessions as the 905 went small ball and took Mouhamadou Gueye off the floor in favour of the more mobile Darryl Morsell in an effort to match up better with Grand Rapids’ closing lineup.

Winslow as the anchor in the middle kept his eyes on the Gold’s Braxton Key as he drove to the basket, and the 27-year-old waited for the perfect moment to help and ended up snatching the ball right out.

He’d then go to the line and knock down two clutch free throws, the game’s final points.

“It’s really like a big-time safety net back there,” Khoury said on Winslow’s defence.

“And it’s not just him as well. That lineup to finish the game, all five guys can really guard and keep people in front … so, it’s a heck of a defensive lineup we can put out there. And, when you have high-level NBA defenders, I’d say for all of them, especially with Justise there, it’s a good recipe.”

Game notes

All five 905 starters finished with double-digit scoring numbers. Kobi Simmons added 16 points in the start, Winslow finished with a near double-double via 12 points and nine rebounds, while Gueye racked up 11 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks.

Up next

It was the 905’s second win in three games since starting a six-game home stand last Saturday. They’re now 3-3 at Paramount Fine Foods centre this season and have an opportunity to bump that home record to above .500 on Tuesday when Mississauga’s team hosts the Maine Celtics for the first of back-to-back matchups.

Bonus content

Kira Lewis Jr, who had 13 points, seven assists, and a clutch layup near the end against the Gold, recently caught attention online for his choice of jersey number with the Toronto Raptors.

The guard checked in for his first minutes with the big club on Friday in a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and he did so while wearing no. 3.

Most fans know that OG Anunoby donned the no. 3 for the last seven seasons with the Raptors before being traded to the New York Knicks last month, and it’s a number some didn’t expect to see another player wearing so soon.

Asking Lewis Jr after the game about the choice, he explained the number was available according to the Raptors equipment manager and he hadn’t even realized Anunoby had it prior. The 22-year-old previously wore no. 3 in high school and decided to go with it again since he was already comfortable with it.