Despite a valiant 33 points from Chris Boucher, the Raptors 905 saw their season come to an end on Friday night, as they lost 112-99 to the Long Island Nets in the single elimination Eastern Conference semifinal, played at NYCB LIVE’s Nassau Coliseum.
This matchup was billed as a duel of two guards who have G League MVP hopes, as the 905’s Jordan Loyd and the Nets’ Theo Pinson went head-to-head. Those two both had solid nights — Pinson scored 20 points on 7-for-14 shooting, with seven assists and four rebounds; Loyd had 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, adding six rebounds and six assists.
Still, Pinson played a great maestro for the Nets, and helped them execute their offence successfully with plenty of opportunities. Long Island absolutely dominated the 905 on the glass, with a 58-38 margin (16-4 on the offensive end!), spearheaded by their frontcourt of Mitchell Creek (12 rebounds), Alan Williams (11), and Dzanan Musa (8). With Boucher in the starting lineup, the 905 have been susceptible to giving up these big nights on the glass, especially as the team started small with Malcolm Miller at power forward and Duane Notice at the three.
While Boucher was effective on the other end — adding seven rebounds, two assists, and three blocks to his 33 points on 20 shots — the 905 simply couldn’t gain enough possessions to hang in this one. A 20-rebound differential is hard to overcome.
Still, one quarter in, the 905 were in this one. Down just 30-29 after 12 minutes, the Nets started to assert themselves in the second, building a 15-point lead at halftime thanks to taking advantage of turnovers and some fouls from the 905’s top players (Loyd would eventually foul out).
In the third, the Raptors chipped away, converting to a creative zone defence from head coach Jama Mahlalela to get a run going. A four-point play from Chris Boucher made it a five-point game, but the tide would turn in the fourth.
The Nets came out like gangbusters, hitting two threes quickly and opening their lead up again. While the Raptors tried again to cut in, they were unable to make an indent, as unfortunately Boucher, Loyd and Wade Baldwin IV (18 points) didn’t get much help from elsewhere on the roster. Miller in particular had his struggles, going 2-for-7 for just six points.
Still, this was a fantastic year for the Raptors 905. They showed their high end G League talent once again, building wins off of Boucher early in the season, then watching Loyd blossom into an MVP candidate. A lot of roster churn in the middle of the season stands out as a difference between this year and championship seasons past — as injuries creeped in, forcing Mahlalela to adjust and trust new players.
The 905 are still a shining example of how the G League can be used successively. The run ended a bit early this year, but the Raptors continue to benefit from the boys in Mississauga.