It was a wild week to follow the Raptors 905.
First, you had the opening of 10-day contracts in the NBA, which resulted in Justin Anderson and Paul Watson getting signed to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks — taking two of the 905’s hottest scorers off the roster. To replace them, the squad signed E.C. Matthews and Michael Bethea Jr. yesterday.
Then, with a home date conveniently scheduled the day before the Raptors hosted the Blazers, Nick Nurse used the opportunity to put Stanley Johnson, Matt Thomas, and Malcolm Miller on assignment for a game against the Erie Bayhawks.
This means a lot of roster churn and not a lot of through lines to be gleaned when you look at the overall 905 season. In the end, two wins are two wins though! The victories over Erie and Grand Rapids climbed the 905 back to 9-11 on the year, with just three games separating them from the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Much is to be decided in the G League before playoff time comes around.
Let’s look at the week that was in Dial 905.
Saturday, January 4 at Grand Rapids Drive
A couple weeks after an inspirational Raptors comeback against the Mavericks, the 905 nearly replicated it on the road against Grand Rapids. The 905 were down 22 points in the first half and 20 at halftime, but battled back with an enormous third quarter to get the win.
The Anderson signing had happened before this game and Oshae Brissett was up with the Raptors, but there were still more than enough bodies for the 905 to put in a balanced scoring effort.
Coach Jama Mahlalela went with a small lineup with Shamorie Ponds and Tyler Ennis at the guard spots and Duane Notice, Paul Watson, and Devin Robinson up front. The move paid off, with Ponds dropping 21 points on 17 shots along with six assists. Watson had 13 points while only hitting one three (weird for him) and Robinson had 15 in the middle.
There were also significant bench contributions. The recently-healthy Sagaba Konate made 5-of-8 to score 14, while Matt Morgan and Nicholas Baer had 16 and 12 respectively.
The clutch shot in this one came off the fingertips of Ponds, who drove for a layup with 30.5 seconds left to put the 905 up 114-113. After two missed threes by Jordan Bone of the Drive on separate possessions, the Raptors came away with the win.
Monday, January 6 vs. Erie Bayhawks
In one of those rare nights where all eyes are on the 905, the team finished their week with a 10-point win over Erie. With Paul Watson off to Atlanta, roster spots were open and available for Nick Nurse to use. That meant the G League squad injected some NBA talent, with the starters Ennis, Thomas, Miller, Johnson, and Robinson reflecting that.
It was Johnson — who had to grant permission to be assigned because of his contract status — who shined down the stretch, though he didn’t start so hot. His team-high 24 points came on 24 shots, as he made just 2-of-10 threes. Still, 11 rebounds and three assists showed a high usage rate and the points were valued.
It was really the 905 guys who drove the bus, though, despite Johnson’s lofty numbers. Oshae Brissett was phenomenal in his minutes on the floor, scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, grabbing five offensive rebounds and 11 overall, marking three steals, and earning a +25. He and Konate — who also provided 14 points of pure bench energy — truly overwhelmed the Bayhawks. The 905 bench outscored Erie’s to the tune of 55-39.
On the backs of a 30-20 second quarter and an 11-2 run midway through the fourth, the 905 took the lead and kept it for good on the way to their ninth win of the season.
Next up for the 905 is a rare trip down south, as they’ll take on the Oklahoma City Blue tomorrow night and the College Park Skyhawks in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon. It’s part of a five-game road trip for the Raptors, with the next home date coming on January 20.