The yo-yo of the G League has never been more apparent. With Jonas Valanciunas’ absence due to a thumb injury labouring on, the 905 have been without their best player in Chris Boucher. Boucher hasn’t been playing that much with the Raptors either, unfortunately, as he’s assumed a “break in case of emergency” role on the end of Nick Nurse’s bench.
Without Boucher, the 905 have struggled. Early in the season, the offensive production of two-way players Boucher and Jordan Loyd — who often had simultaneous 30-point outings — was enough to overcome a weak interior defence. The Raptors would give up runs, yes, but we saw a lot of stratospheric box scores — 130-point games, anyone? — in the 905’s climb to the top of the Eastern Conference.
This week, the full-time assignment of Malachi Richardson helped competition, but there was no replacing Boucher in a run against the East’s elite (Westchester, Lakeland, and Long Island are all above .500).
The Raptors went 0-3, falling to 14-10 and three games back of the Nets in first place. Also, the struggles in Paramount Fine Foods Centre have continued, as the 905 have a 5-7 record at home.
Let’s dial 905 and take a look back at what happened in detail.
Friday, January 4 vs. Westchester Knicks
A superhuman performance from the 905’s starting backcourt gave them their closest game of the week. Jordan Loyd led the way with 34 points, ten assists, seven rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, driving and getting to the line consistently to get half his point total from the charity stripe (17-for-18).
Malachi Richardson was in strong support, making 4-for-9 from three and 11-for-21 overall to finish with 29 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
Unfortunately, the story of this game ended up being Michigan product Zak Irvin, who made a ridiculous 11-of-14 shots on his way to a career-high 22 points. The Knicks were well ahead for most of this game, outscoring the 905 66-47 in the first half before the Raptors clawed back to get it to single digits early in the fourth quarter.
A late Richardson three-point play with under five minutes left made it a one-point game, setting up a dramatic final possession. With the 905 down three, Richardson tried a difficult three-pointer to force overtime, which just missed.
Saturday, January 5 at Long Island Nets
Following the home disappointment, the 905 headed for a short road trip to Long Island to take on the East-leading Nets. This game was decided at the point guard position, as Nets man Shannon Scott stuffed his sheet for 17 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds, while Jordan Loyd struggled, playing just the first half due to a right knee contusion— finishing with seven points.
Malachi Richardson was the high point man for the Raptors, scoring 33 points on 9-for-18 shooting, adding five rebounds.
Again, the 905 were sunk by a very poor first half in this one. The Raptors scored just 16 points in the first quarter compared to the Nets’ 32. Long Island followed that up with a 40-point second, giving them a ridiculous 72-42 lead at halftime. The Raptors would win the second half, but not enough to make a real dent in the lead.
Besides the triple-double from Scott, Long Island got efficient production from their frontcourt, as centre Kamari Murphy and power forward Mitchell Creek combined for 29 points on 26 shots. As a team, the Nets’ dominating interior play got them a 52% field goal percentage and a +23 rebounding margin.
Tuesday, January 8 at Delaware Blue Coats
Blue Coats 119
After two games of getting handily beaten early on, the 905 made the first quarter their point of emphasis in the week’s final matchup in Delaware. The Raptors won the first 36-35, heading into halftime with a 61-59 lead.
A lineup shakeup might’ve been part of the nice start. Rather than his usual starting small forward spot, Deng Adel came off the bench for Jama Mahlalela, as Duane Notice got the start at point guard, moving the rest of the lineup down a position. Adel in particular responded, leading the team with 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting in 30 minutes, adding four rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Unfortunately, Adel’s performance was no match for Shake Milton, who poured in 33 points on just 18 shots for Delaware, a stark contrast to a rough shooting night for Richardson and Loyd — who went a combined 12-for-38.
A dominant third quarter by the Blue Coats, including 12 for Milton alone, eventually put them ahead by double digits before closing it out in the fourth.
Delaware and the Raptors have gotten familiar so far this season, as the Blue Coats now hold a 2-1 record on the 905.