The Raptors 905 and the Westchester Knicks were back at it again last night, less than 24 hours since coach Patrick Mutombo and the 905ers gave the Knicks the business on Thursday. The Raptors 905 got big-time reinforcements, with the Raptors sending Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie to Mississauga. Given the outcome during their initial outing, an easy win seemed likely, right? Unfortunately, basketball doesn’t work that way, and a stacked Raptors 905 team had to eke out a win against a Knicks team that showed up for the challenge.
Westchester Knicks: MJ Walker, Aamir Simms, V.J. King, Tyler Hall, Brandon Williams
Raptors 905: Justin Champagnie, Isaac Bonga, Reggie Perry, David Johnson, Dalano Banton
Westchester Knicks: None
Raptors 905: Isaac Bonga (NBA), Dalano Banton (NBA), Justin Champagnie (TW), David Johnson (TW)
Banton’s Raptors 905 debut electrified the crowd, and he did not disappoint. He was aggressive from the start, constantly pushing the pace, getting the Raptors 905 in early transition, and put his fingerprints all over the game with his playmaking and rebounding. It looks like the Raptors 905 would run away early, leading 19-10, hitting on all cylinders. Only this time, the Knicks were up for the challenge.
The Knicks made quite a few significant adjustments that stifled the Raptors 905 throughout the game. There was a concerted effort to hustle back on defense as soon as the Raptors 905 gained possession. The Knicks also did a great job packing the paint on defense, daring the 905 to either shoot from the perimeter or drive in traffic. It resulted in several turnovers from Banton, Isaac Bonga, and Champagnie, who sometimes forced the issue, dribbling through a wall of defenders.
However, the Knicks’ biggest adjustment was their improvement from behind the arc. Brandon Williams and Tyler Hall made it rain at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre, as the Knicks dropped 20 three-pointers on 43% shooting. In contrast, the Raptors 905 made 13 trifectas on 37% shooting. That formula worked well for the Knicks for the most part, as they controlled the game and got up by as many as 15 points midway through the third period.
The Knicks weathered the Banton’s onslaught, as he dropped 30 points through three quarters. Unfortunately, fatigue caught up to him a little bit, as he failed to score in the final frame and gave away six of his eight turnovers in the second half. However, Banton’s defense and playmaking had enough juice in the final period, as he repeatedly got his teammates in scoring position all over the floor when it mattered. Banton filled the stat sheet with 30 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists.
Isaac Bonga had a lowkey impressive game last night too, finishing with 27 points, including the game-winner. It’s encouraging to see him play effectively playing off the ball, as Banton and David Johnson shared the ball-handling duties. Bonga’s shots mainly were assisted, as he did a great job reading the play unfold and making himself a tremendous passing target.
David Johnson was the unsung hero for the Raptors 905 tonight and perhaps the MVP of the game. He was passive for the first two-thirds of the game and was content setting up his teammates. However, Johnson flipped the switch and took over the game with the team down 15 midway through the third quarter. He led a 26-7 run to take the lead back before getting a well-deserved rest after playing 19 straight minutes.
Fortunately for coach Mutombo, his team got hot from behind the arc when it mattered, outdueling the Knicks in the fourth period (Raptors 905: 6/10, Knicks: 2/11). Champagnie had an off-shooting game, inefficient 10 points on 15 attempts while turning the ball over four times. However, it was his grit and hustle that earned him minutes on the floor. At times, it takes 2-3 Knicks to defeat him on the boards. Reggie Perry had another strong production as the team’s centre, dropping another near double-double of 17 points and eight rebounds. Don’t let the -20 statline think he was bad out there — it was a product of who he was playing with, especially with the second unit that fell behind.
The game was over when: The Knicks were up 116-115 and had the possession with 23 seconds left in the game. The Raptors 905 had to dig deep and lean on their identity: a staunch defensive stand that saw Perry and Johnson force Aamir Simms to a turnover. The ball found its way to Champagnie, who initiated a fastbreak and found a streaking Bonga who made a layup in traffic. No timeouts, no holding the ball for the final possession, just follow the blueprint of getting a bucket in transition. Bonga wrapped up the win with excellent on-ball defense on Brandon Williams, who led the Knicks with 27 points.
Up Next: The Raptors 905 are off for a week as they cross the border and hit the road and face the Long Island Nets on another back-to-back on November 19th and 20th