The Raptors 905 survived their first (of hopefully three) do-or-die game against a strong Grand Rapids Drive squad, pulling out a 91-90 win. It wasn’t pretty, and felt more like 90’s era basketball at times, but they got the job done. Here are some post-game grades and analysis for the first leg of the 905’s G League playoff run.
18 PTS, 33.3% FG% (6/18), 33.3% 3P% (2/6 3PM/A), 15 REB, 7 AST, 4 STL, 2 BLK, 2 TO, +2 +/-
Jordan Loyd was part of the starting lineup that looked real shaky to start. He looked tight in missing his shots, and the Drive’s defense bothered him. Loyd found his bearings in the second quarter, helping the 905 get back into the game. Loyd tried to go for the home run 3s in transition but was not effective. Still, he was content doing the other things through three quarters, adding to a great fantasy league line with 7 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks, and just one turnover.
In the final frame and OT, Loyd was persistent in tracking 50/50 rebounds, even out-rebounding 7’1” Adam Woodbury in one instance. He was always in the thick of the action, and it was his display of heart and hustle put him in a position to get the game-winning put-back.
16 PTS, 45.5% FG% (5/11), 44.4% 3P% (4/9 3PM/A), 1 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 1 TO, -4 +/-
I may be a prisoner of the moment, but I believe this is Malcolm Miller’s best playoff game with the Raptors 905. Offensively, he kept the 905 in the game with his scoring, pouring in 13 points in the first half, especially when everybody else was struggling to score.
However, Miller’s defense — on-ball and as a help defender — played a big part until he got into foul trouble. There were plenty of situations where Miller either got a steal, deflection or just a good read to help and force a turnover on the ball handler. Miller also contested a lot of shots, including Isaiah Whitehead’s transition layup attempt late in the fourth, as he did everything to try to block the shot without fouling him. He did not get the block, but he prevented an easy layup and the 905 regained possession.
12 PTS, 30% FG% (6/20), 0% 3P% (0/5 3PM/A), 12 REB, 0 AST, 2 STL, 10 BLK, 4 TO, +8 +/-
Chris Boucher was off to a nightmarish start last night, as he finished the first half shooting 1-of-8 from the field while committing four turnovers. Even more disappointing was the lack of rebounding, as he was often boxed out by the Drive’s stronger defenders.
Credit to them, the Drive were really physical with Boucher whenever he got the ball inside 15 feet, effectively shutting down Boucher’s pick-and-roll effectiveness by bumping him before, during, and after the catch. I thought he was en route to a horrible game, as things didn’t change in the third quarter. Boucher was staring at a frustrating 2-of-15 shooting, but he started crashing the boards and helping push the pace.
It wasn’t until midway the fourth quarter, after the Drive went small by taking Woodbury out, when Boucher erupted. He scored three offensive put-backs (including one put-back jam) and found himself enough open for a layup, netting eight points in the last eight minutes of the game including OT.
Boucher also provided excellent rim protection, as he essentially shut down the paint in the fourth quarter and OT, blocking four shots en route to a G League first 10-block triple double.
5 PTS, 12.5% FG% (1/8), 0% 3P% (0/3 3PM/A), 6 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 0 TO, -9 +/-
I was a bit worried about Duane Notice’s height disadvantage against Whitehead on the defensive end, but his strength and tenacity were more than good enough to hold his own against the Drive’s star player. Notice even made a clutch defensive play late in the fourth, blocking Kalin Lucas’ fastbreak layup that would have put the Drive up by two with under a minute remaining.
Unfortunately, Notice was horrible offensively last night. It’s one thing if he’s missing his wide open shots (which he did), but he forced a lot of shots against multiple defenders where an extra pass was the better move.
Wade Baldwin IV
17 PTS, 35.3% FG% (6/17), 33.3% 3P% (2/6 3PM/A), 6 REB, 4 AST, 0 STL, 7 TO, +4 +/-
Wade Baldwin IV survived early foul trouble in the first quarter to redeem himself in the second quarter when he erupted for a much needed 13 points to get the Raptors 905 back into the game. As the Drive adjusted to take out his scoring, Baldwin settled into the third quarter by moving the ball and setting up his teammates, notching three assists in the frame.
That said, everything on Baldwin’s scouting report in the negative was in full display in the fourth. He coughed up the ball multiple times late in the game, and his poor decision making led to 0-of-4 shooting as well. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt because of his hand injury (it looks like he might have grabbed it a couple of times after losing the ball), and put the onus on coach Jama Mahlalela to make the better decision to take him out.
12 PTS, 40% FG% (4/10), 40% 3P% (2/5 3PM/A), 7 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 1 TO, +10 +/-
MiKyle McIntosh just saved the Raptors 905 season.
After a shaky first stint (a common theme), McIntosh came back in the second half to provide the 905 with some scoring punch off the bench. He made a couple of open threes, but more importantly, he was bruising defenders in the paint and causing a lot of problems for the Drive. Grand Rapids eventually had to resort to doubling him in the post and then played small ball to try to get him out of the game.
McIntosh helped the 905 get their biggest lead of the game. But more importantly, his presence in the second half proved to be the game’s major swing move. It forced the Drive to play ultra-small ball which freed up Boucher and got the 905 out-rebounding the Drive in the last eight minutes of the game (11-7) — with majority of the 905’s points coming from offensive put-backs. The Drive had been beating the 905 on the glass 49-40 before Woodbury was taken out and the complexion of the game changed.
8 PTS, 42.9% FG% (3/7), 0% 3P% (0/3 3PM/A), 1 REB, 0 AST, 3 STL, 3 TO, +3 +/-
Josh Adams started off a bit shaky, going 1-of-4 with two turnovers in this run. He did come back and looked more like himself, posting up Marcus Thornton for a hook shot, and getting a signature dunk midway through the game. His biggest contribution was in the fourth quarter, providing solid defense when the Drive doubled down on playing small ball.
Derek Cooke Jr
3PTS, 33.3% FG% (1/3), 0% 3P% (0/0 3PM/A), 3 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 0 TO, -9 +/-
Derek Cooke Jr got the quick hook last night, as he had a hard time anchoring the defense while in the game. It also didn’t help that he looked tight — missing a transition dunk (maybe he was fouled), a free throw, and a make-able layup in the third. The Drive also sagged off him to clog the lanes, and coach Jama was forced to put Boucher back in.
Still, Cooke did have an alley-oop dunk that electrified the crowd.
Broken clipboards - 0
Heading into the post-season, I was worried more about the 905’s coaching than any of the key players on the team. After all, this is Jama Mahlalela’s first foray as a professional coach, and judging by how the game went last night, I’m pretty sure he’s learned that the playoffs are a different animal compared to the regular season.
Last night, coach Jama flexed some coaching chops that yielded mixed results. Here are some pre-game adjustments that he made heading into the playoffs:
Establish Boucher in the paint early in the game - while it didn’t work, it was a big part of the offensive game plan to start the game.
Push the pace - The 905 ran after forcing turnovers and they ran even after Drive’s misses. Mixed results here as while they got some easy transition buckets, they did force a lot of 2-on-3/1-on-2 transition plays that ended up in misses or turnovers.
Shortened rotation - This is the first time I’ve seen Jama utilize an almost 7-man rotation, with only Josh Adams and MiKyle McIntosh seeing extended minutes off the bench. He made the right call, as both Adams, and especially McIntosh delivered.
Isaiah Whitehead defensive coverage - As expected, coach Jama put Duane Notice on Whitehead. The rest of the team (especially Miller and Loyd) were well aware of Whitehead’s shoot-first mentality and they were always ready to blitz Whitehead or provide the help defense at the last minute. Miller also took his turn guarding Whitehead.
Here are some in-game adjustments that coach Jama made:
Zone defense - Jama primarily called for a zone defense after timeouts, and they got burned pretty much every time.
Hunt McIntosh mismatch - The Drive are a physical team, but a whirling, contact-seeking McIntosh in the paint was too much for them to handle.
In-game rotation adjustment - Coach Jama saw that Cooke was playing sub-par in the second half and made the decision to pull him out early with 90 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Counter to Drive’s ultra-small ball - In the fourth quarter, the Drive chose to play really small to force Jama to take out McIntosh by playing four small guards. He responded by playing Adams alongside Loyd, and one of Baldwin or Notice at times.
Putting the ball on Baldwin’s hand late in the game - It was a disaster late game for Baldwin, yet Jama stuck with him. There were better options like going back to Boucher’s PnR action with Woodbury off the floor.
Excellent use of timeouts to stop the bleeding - Coach Jama did not let the Drive run away early, using his timeouts to stop Drive’s momentum.
- The first one was five minutes into the game, as the Drive went up 10-5, but it was more about getting the team to loosen up a bit. To that point, the 905 looked tight going 2-of-12 with two turnovers.
- The next timeout happened late in the first quarter, as the Drive threatened to pull away early, going up 18-9 with over two minutes left in the first quarter. The third timeout occurred midway through the second quarter when the 905 cut the deficit into 5, but they allowed Drive a couple of open looks around the perimeter and promptly called for a timeout when the Drive made an open three-pointer to push the lead back up to eight.
- Late fourth quarter plus OT Timeouts: I really don’t see the need of these timeouts if it’s about handing the ball over to Loyd or Baldwin to milk the clock and go iso.
The Raptors 905 will now face Long Island Nets on the road for another do-or-die game this Friday March 29, 2019 at 7:00 PM.