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Dial 905: Raptors home cooking with two-way excellence

The 905 are in a groove over the past two weeks, winning three straight at Paramount Fine Foods Centre. Let’s look back.

Fort Wayne Mad Ants v Mississauga Raptors 905 Photo by Christian Bonin/NBAE via Getty Images

While the Raptors 905 still have plenty of ground to make up, they’re finally starting to knock on the door of playoff contention here in late February.

Thanks to some pleasant scheduling, with four straight games at home surrounded by an All-Star break, the 905 have been able to rattle off three straight games and get to a record of 18-20. They’re still a good 9.5 games back of the division lead, but only two games back of Delaware and Capital City, who currently have claim on the third and final “wild card” seed in the Eastern Conference. With a month left to go before the end of the regular season, things could get crazy.

How did the 905 get here? Well, it’s been a successful run for their two-way players to start, as well as boilerplate contributions from their centre Henry Ellenson. Being able to count on the big man’s production on an everyday basis has given something the Raptors have lacked throughout 2019-20, which is someone who can get buckets through the ups and downs of the supporting cast.

With that as our jumping off point, let’s take a closer look back at the last two weeks — a 3-0 stretch for the 905! — in this week’s column.

Wednesday, February 19 vs. Westchester Knicks

Knicks 124
Raptors 126

In an absolutely wild return to basketball after the All-Star break, the Westchester Knicks and Raptors 905 renewed their rivalry for a triple overtime classic. It truly wasn’t pretty in extra time, with neither team scoring more than four points in each frame, but the 905 got the job done by edging out a two-point win.

While the game-winner hero was Jawun Evans, who hit this jumper with 17.9 seconds left to seal the win, we can’t get too deep without mentioning Paul Watson.

Showing why the 905 have trusted him with a two-way contract, Watson simply balled out — scoring 30 points on 13-for-25 shooting, including 4-for-9 from downtown. He also added 11 rebounds, three assists, and three steals to lead all players.

Nearly matching his output, though, was Ellenson. A quiet hero, he managed 29 points on just 12 shots — getting to the charity stripe for six points and making 3-for-5 from downtown for an ultra efficient performance.

There were also contributions down the line from Devin Robinson, who had 17 points, Tyler Ennis with 12, and the pair of Michael Bethea Jr. and Matt Morgan with 24 points combined off the bench.

It’s almost surprising to see that Evans was the hero, as the game-winner was one of just two field goals in the game for him. The game had that kind of random feel, though, as neither team really commanded it in regulation. Still, it was a thriller, and deserving of some savoury 905 moments / Open Gym goodness.

Saturday, February 22 vs. Maine Red Claws

Red Claws 109
Raptors 116

The 905 kept the winning going on Saturday, as they beat the Red Claws in a top-heavy performance with a different two-way player shining bright. Oshae Brissett was the team leader in this one, as he shot 8-for-14 for 29 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and made five threes in the win.

It was also Brissett who put ice on a win that shouldn’t have been this close, as he made free throws in the dying moments to put the game out of reach. Carrying a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Raptors allowed Maine to chip into the lead until it was just a two-point game with 1:38 left. A 5-0 run to end the game — built more on the defensive end than the offensive — carried the day.

Brissett had support, but not from a variety of sources, as only three 905ers scored in double-digits. I’m sure you could’ve guessed from the article lede that one of them was Henry Ellenson, who made 9-of-16 shots (yawn), 4-for-8 from three (snooze), and posted a +12 in a 28-point performance.

The 905 also got a stellar double-double from Devin Robinson, who had 24 points and 14 rebounds, throwing in some highlights for good measure.

Tuesday, February 25 vs. Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Mad Ants 96
Raptors 113

The 905 closed the week on Tuesday with a convincing victory over Fort Wayne. Despite losing the first half, the Raptors sent a tidal wave at the Mad Ants in the third quarter, winning it 38-16 en route to a double-digits win.

After missing the game against the Red Claws, Paul Watson and Tyler Ennis were both back in the starting lineup looking extremely fresh. The two-way guard had 23 points on 50% shooting from the field, while Ennis had his best outing of the week with 21 points and 15 assists — a box score hero at +26 too.

It wasn’t just the backcourt doing damage to Fort Wayne, though, and you must know at this point where I’m going. Henry Ellenson had a game-high 30 points on a 12-for-17 shooting game, including 4-for-7 from three. While Ellenson could only dream of Ennis’ +25, his +13 also showed the dominance of the 905’s starters, where four players scored in double-digits (Robinson had 16) and roundly dominated.

Coming up, the 905 head out on the road, playing Long Island on Sunday and Windy City on Wednesday. Two games back of true playoff contention, let’s see if they can keep the streak going.