The Raptors 905 appear ready to settle into a groove.
After the roster upheaval of Justin Anderson joining, leaving, joining, and leaving again — there’s been some consistency starting this week. The addition of Marquette product and Pistons draft pick Henry Ellenson has created a dynamic interior presence with Devin Robinson and it worked more than it didn’t during a 2-1 week.
As JD Quirante described well in this week’s Prospect Report, the addition of Ellenson has opened up the floor for the 905 shooters. Paul Watson and Michael Bethea Jr. have a bit more breathing room on the wings, while Robinson can focus on defense and throwing down crazy dunks — without having to bang with the opposition’s biggest player.
The new look worked to a tee, as the 905 knocked off the Memphis Hustle and Grand Rapids Drive, while losing to the Westchester Knicks, improving to 12-18 on the year.
Let’s take a look back at the three games in Dial 905.
Friday, January 24 at Memphis Hustle
In one of the team’s best shooting performances to date, the 905 achieved splits of 49/50/93 and closed with a convincing 30-19 fourth quarter to beat the Hustle.
The starters were red hot throughout the game, as coach Jama Mahlalela began his experiment with maximizing shooting around the Ellenson-Robinson frontcourt. It was a beautiful thing, as Watson shot 5-for-9 from distance on his way to 22 points and Bethea Jr. was a blazing 6-for-10 to get to 20.
Also, the big man shot the ball excellently, as Ellenson made 10-of-15 — including 6-for-9 from three — to score a game-high 31 points. The mix below tells the story of how the 905 can play now, with a five-out look really boosting their offense on a regular basis.
This isn’t a knock on Justin Anderson, either, who was a scoring machine in his own right. On a good Ellenson day, though, you just get a better ability to threaten the opposition from all over the court.
Tyler Ennis and Devin Robinson chipped in 18 each, as the 905 barely needed any bench scoring (20 in total) to snap a three-game losing streak and finally get a win.
Monday, January 27 at Westchester Knicks
Still on the road, the 905 shot the ball well again against Westchester, but ran into a buzzsaw in the combination of Ignas Brazdeikis and Ivan Rabb. The pair of Knicks shot a combined 20-for-31, scoring 53 points and pulling down 28 rebounds.
Still, the Raptors were right in this one. The 905 went on a 9-3 run to take the lead from Westchester in the third quarter, thanks to threes from Ennis and Bethea Jr. along with a tip from Ellenson. Late in the frame, they’d lead by as many as five.
The Knicks took over in the fourth, though, as they would close on a 9-2 run to seal a game that was truly up for the taking until the final two minutes.
This time, the backcourt for the 905 really impressed. Bethea Jr. continued his hot shooting to make 50% of his 12 three-point attempts, scoring 22 points and adding five assists. Paul Watson also made three triples while shifting down to small forward, scoring 17 points.
The team was once again led, though, by Henry Ellenson. Making 9-for-16, the big man had 26 points.
Wednesday, January 29 vs. Grand Rapids Drive
In their last game of the week, the 905 returned home and got a boost from Stanley Johnson, who was assigned to the Raptors to get some work in with Toronto also at home to take on the Hawks.
Johnson’s outing was eerily similar to his first game with the 905 this season — full of shots, not entirely efficient, but strong enough to lead his team. He scored 26 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and had six assists to match Paul Watson’s output.
The two matching game-highs pushed the 905 above Grand Rapids in the six-point win, as they would ice the game with the Raptors’ last six points.
Outside their two leading scorers, the 905 got a welcome return from Oshae Brissett, who returned from a nagging knee injury. Starting at the four next to Ellenson (Robinson came off the bench), he scored 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting, marking a +12 and grabbing seven rebounds for good measure.
Oh, and he and Stanley Johnson did this.
How Brissett factors into the world of Ellenson is going to be interesting, as the energetic big theoretically complements the 905’s new centre in similar ways to Robinson. Devin was no slouch in this game either, making 6-of-9 shots off the bench for 12 points.
All said, it looks like the Raptors have a good amount of riches with two months left in the season.
Coming up, the 905 face Wisconsin, Fort Wayne, and Greensboro as they try to string together some wins to start a new month.