The Raptors 905 started off their 2021 post-season campaign with a bang, getting their revenge from an earlier loss this season by trashing the G League Ignite, 127-102. Alize Johnson set the tone for the 905, with his squad taking an early lead in the first quarter. It’s a lead they would not relinquish, as Henry Ellenson, Nik Stauskas, and Matt Morgan’s scoring barrage were just too much for the Ignite team. Coach Brian Shaw’s team was at a loss on scoring and defending for most of the game.
The game was a perfect display of contrast between the two teams. The Ignite team boasted youth and athleticism, but their inexperience showed throughout the game. They constantly made mistakes offensively and defensively while also relying too much on isolation plays — like an AAU team. On the other hand, the Raptors 905 relied on their experience, shooting, discipline, and teamwork. The Ignite never had a chance to make this a game despite Jalen Green providing a spark with 30 points and seven assists.
At the same time, the 905’s defense kept Ignite from catching fire, as they repeatedly pressured them deep into the shot clock. The 905’s offense would hit a wall late in the third and midway through the fourth quarter. Still, coach Shaw’s Ignite looked like they wanted out of Disney as soon as possible and didn’t make an effort to stage a comeback. In the process, Ellenson had 35 points (with five triples) and eight rebounds, while Matt Morgan finished up with 25 points on crazy 9-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-7 from deep. Both point totals were career-high marks.
After a feeling-out process in the first three minutes, the 905 started heating up, with Alize Johnson led the charge. Coach Patrick Mutombo went to Johnson early and often, and his quick ten points saw the 905 go up early with an eleven-point lead 24-13. The Ignite had to be carried by their older vets, with (former Raptor!) Jarrett Jack and Bobby Brown combining for ten points in the quarter. Jalen Harris made his first appearance in over two weeks too — though he was clearly rusty, going 0-for-3 in the period. Ellenson, meanwhile, closed the quarter strong, finishing with nine points to put the 905ers up 34-26.
Then it was Nik Stauskas’ turn, as he started to get going in the second period, and showing he’s not just a spot-up shooter after consecutive cuts to the basket. Things got sloppy for the 905, and Daishen Nix led a 10-3 run to get the Ignite closer, at 44-40. The Ignite failed to capitalize on this momentum though, as the 905 quickly pushed the lead back up to 15 by — what else? — running the offense through Johnson, who promptly found Ellenson for back-to-back three-pointers.
The Ignite’s other phenoms started to get involved, as Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd finally found the bottom of the basket. However, the 905ers were in such a good rhythm, pushing the lead to 18 via Johnson’s sixth assist on a Stauskas three-pointer. The Ignite weren’t completely spent, and Green would indeed finish strong, scoring eight points in the quarter and cutting the 905’s lead to 69-56.
The second half was a series of runs, with the 905 going 5-0 and necessitating a timeout from the Ignite. Thanks to Green, they responded with five straight points of their own, but the 905 were right there, ready to counter with a quick 7-0 run to push their lead up to 20. As mentioned, the Ignite’s offense came alive in the third, led by Green’s athletic forays to the basket, but the 905 always had an answer. After Tres Tinkle’s back-to-back buckets pushed the lead back to 96-76 with just over two minutes to go in the quarter — it didn’t quite matter if the 905’s offense went stagnant. Sure, Green rallied his team to another 7-0 run, including a buzzer-beater at the end of the quarter, but the 905 were still up 98-85.
The Raptors 905’s offense transitioned from being stagnant to sloppy to start the quarter, but Ignite said to “hold my beer.” Both teams combined for ten turnovers and only six field goals made in the first six minutes of the frame. The Ignite had no other functional offense outside of Green, while the 905ers were just content to keep them at arm’s length. Ellenson’s dunk in transition pretty much sealed the game for the Raptors 905, pushing their lead back up to 20 with four minutes to go.
And that was that, the 905 kept it up to the final buzzer, winning handily 127-102. They go on to face the Delaware Blue Coats in the semi-finals — and we’ve got a preview of that game below.
Playoff Semi-Finals Preview
Raptors 905 (1) vs Delaware Blue Coats (4)
The Raptors 905 don’t have time to celebrate their playoff win, as they have to face the Delaware Blue Coats tonight. Playoff back-to-back games give coach Patrick Mutombo and his staff very little time to prepare for their matchup against the Blue Coats, though the two teams did play each other recently on February 24.
That 905 win against the Blue Coats was a statement, as they were among the top teams around that time. It also acted as one of the earlier wins that provided the 905 with the blueprint on how they would go on without Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris. The “next man up” mentality, the unselfish ball movement, and unleashing Alize Johnson would lead to the G League’s best offense. By the way, they also destroyed the Blue Coats 138-107.
The question before tonight’s game is what to make of Blue Coats now? They racked up seven straight wins to start the season, but only two of those opponents made the playoffs. They proceeded to drop their next four games, all against squads whom made the post-season cut. The Blue Coats demolished the Austin Spurs on their first-round matchup last night, but that same Spurs team got run off the gym by the G League Ignite team by 35 points — who were in turn punked by the 905 last night.
The Blue Coats should come in as a better-coached or at least more consistent team than the G League Ignite, as their inside presence and perimeter shooting can cause problems for the Raptors 905. Isaiah Joe’s presence adds more potency to the Blue Coats offense, building on what Paul Reed and Rayjon Tucker already bring to the table. It’s a high-stakes knock-out game, and both teams will be playing their second game of a back-to-back. In all, it may just come down to which team is mentally stronger.
Here are the details for tonight’s contest.
Where to Watch
SportsNET One, ESPNU, NBA TV Canada, 9:15 PM ET
Raptors 905 — Matt Mooney, Matt Morgan, Nik Stauskas, Alize Johnson, Henry Ellenson
Blue Coats — Justin Robinson, Isaiah Joe, Rayjon Tucker, Julian Washburn, Paul Reed
Raptors 905 — Breein Tyree (ACL - out), Malachi Flynn (with Raptors - out), Donta Hall (with Raptors - out)
Blue Coats — N/A