The Raptors 905 could have been near the top of the standings halfway through the G League Showcase Cup. Instead, they find themselves in the middle of the pack and at risk of missing out on the playoffs.
This week, the Raptors 905 hosted the Long Island Nets for a couple of games. The Nets only had eight players in uniform and had neither of their two-way contract players on the fold. On the flip side, the Raptors were pretty much in full strength on the first game of their back-to-back but had a depleted roster on their second day.
In two games, it looked like the Raptors 905 had the superior talent, as they repeatedly built double-figure leads in both games. However, in two straight games, the Nets showed superiority in areas that can impact the game greatly — experience and heart.
The diminutive point guard Chris Chiozza steered the Nets through muddy waters, held the team together, and put his teammates in a position to steal both games. Chiozza’s experience and skill level showed he’s a much better point guard than his counterparts on the Raptors 905 side. Chiozza averaged 21 points, 16 assists, 8.5 rebounds, and three steals in this series.
The Nets also did a great job with their in-game adjustments, taking advantage of Reggie Perry being left on an island against Chiozza, especially late in the game. It’s part of a switch-heavy defensive strategy by the Raptors 905, but it’s a switch that was served on a silver platter, despite shooting just 33.3% from the perimeter this season. Chiozza actually shot 27.8% from deep during this series, so I think there’s an argument to make about going under the screen on Chiozza’s PnR actions.
The Raptors 905’s disturbing trend on defense reared its ugly head last Monday, which allowed the Nets to come back not once, not twice, but three times during the game. I’m pretty sure coach Eric Khoury’s emphasized this to the team, but they allowed the Nets to get a layup after their make-or-miss easily. Eight games into the season, there are still kinks in their defensive schemes, and with mostly new faces, they’re not comfortable the type of defense that the Raptors employ. Often, you would see a good closeout only to see teammates miss a rotation or that person who just made the closeout won’t get back into the defensive stand, despite the opposing team’s offense still being in progress. No wonder we’re getting career games from players who aren’t even NBA or two-way contract players.
Despite that, the Raptors 905’s offense is surprisingly potent, except for the crunch-time offense. Their perimeter shooting is trending up, as they shot 39.1% from behind the arc in this series. The rise in offense coincided with Gabe Brown’s offensive breakout, averaging 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting a whopping 57.1% from the perimeter on seven attempts per game.
Reggie Perry has been solid for the most part, rising to the challenge of the burlier Nets bigs. He’s on par with his season average, putting up 19.5 points and 12 rebounds, but frustration seems to get in the way on most nights. The Raptors 905 doesn’t really have the pass-first point guard on the roster, so it can get frustrating for Perry, especially when the guards cannot get him the ball to his sweet spots. He’s had to manufacture his offense which led to him forcing a lot of shots and, worse, turning the ball over. He’s averaging a team-high 4.5 turnovers per game.
Speaking of guards, Jeffrey Dowtin Jr. only played one game with the Raptors 905, as he got called up, with the man club’s main rotation wearing street clothes for the past few games. His 25 points, six rebounds, and 11 assists to only one turnover looks good, but he struggled down the stretch to put the game away, highlighting the weaknesses of his game. Saben Lee also received a call-up, but this time, from the Philadelphia 76ers. They just so happened to play the Delaware Blue Coats over the weekend, so it’s imperative to always play hard as you’ll never know who’s watching. With that, a big congrats to Saben Lee, who received a Two-Way contract from the Sixers.
Since the Raptors 905 were missing their formidable backcourt, coach Khoury turned to Christian Vital and David Johnson to fill the hole left by Dowtin Jr. and Lee, at least for the second Nets game. Dowtin Jr. and Lee combined for almost 44 points and 13 assists, but the replacements weren’t too shabby either, as Johnson and Vital combined for 42 points and 12 assists.
It was an interesting battle of adjustments with the opposing coaches as well. Khoury repeatedly targeted Chiozza and RaiQuan Gray on mismatches, while the Nets’ Ronnie Burrell unleashed Chiozza on Perry in crunch time for both games. Burrell also targeted Ryan Hawkins as often as possible whenever he was on the floor. However, the swing factor proved the Raptors 905’s inability to solve the Nets’ zone defense.
Let’s look at the individual games.
Showcase Cup Game 07: Raptors 905 can’t maintain a big lead, lose to shorthanded Long Island Nets via Elam Ending
Raptors 905: Jeff Dowtin Jr., Saben Lee, Ron Harper Jr., Gabe Brown, Reggie Perry
Long Island Nets: Donovan Williams, Kaiser Gates, RaiQuan Gray, Jordan Bowden, Chris Chiozza
Raptors 905: Jeff Dowtin Jr. (TW), Ron Harper Jr. (TW)
Long Island Nets: N/A
This is probably the first time I have seen something like this, but the Raptors 905 blew a 15-point lead, a 12-point lead, and a 16-point lead in the same game. The scrappy, shorthanded Long Island Nets persevered throughout the game. They outworked the hosts to force the game into overtime and win the game via Elam Ending, 132-128.
The Raptors 905 got solid production from up and down the roster, with six players scoring in double figures. Jeff Dowtin Jr. led the Raptors 905 with 25 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds. Unfortunately — and uncharacteristically, he went cold late in the fourth. Saben Lee added 23 points and nine assists, while Reggie Perry chipped in 18 points and 14 rebounds.
The shorthanded Nets only had eight players dressed for this game, and they lost RaiQuan Gray, who picked up a flagrant foul two fifteen seconds into the second half. Kameron Hankerson came off the bench to lead all scorers with 32 points and five(!!!) blocks. He was also a +41 on the floor. Chris Chiozza manipulated the Raptors 905’s offense the entire game, and he finished with 21 points, 19 assists, nine rebounds, and four steals.
It looked like the Raptors 905 were going to coast to an easy win against the Long Island Nets the way they started the game. It was a track meet, but all the shots fell for them. Saben Lee looked like a downhill running back, getting his layup whenever he wanted. Reggie Perry had a good start offensively. Dowtin Jr. even made a perimeter shot early in the game to put the Raptors 905 ahead, 22-7. However, Chris Chiozza was too much against the back end of the Raptors 905’s rotation, and he captained a 23-8 run to close the quarter tied at 30.
Kameron Hankerson started to heat up for the Nets, but Ryan Hawkins notched nine quick points to give the Raptors 905 a 58-46 lead past midway through the second period, only to see Hankerson and Jordan Bowden carry the Nets back with a 20-10 run to close the half, cutting the Raptors 905’s lead to 68-66 at the half.
RaiQuan Gray was called for an offensive foul to start the second half, and he was jettisoned by the refs 15 seconds into the half with a flagrant two. Perry and Ron Harper Jr. joined hands to build yet another lead for the Raptors 905, which peaked at 16 points with Melvin Frazier Jr’s and-1, pushing the lead to 104-88 with 2:30 remaining in the third period.
The Raptors’ offense faltered to start the fourth, partly because of the Nets’ zone defense, but mainly because of the several badly executed individual plays instead of running their offense. The Nets held the Raptors 905 to two points for the first five minutes of the frame while they mounted a 20-2 run to cut the lead to 110-108. At the same time, Chiozza pretty much dissected the Raptors 905’s defense, and found one open teammate after another. Dowtin Jr. and Lee tried to fend off the Nets, but Chiozza’s masterclass and Dowtin Jr.’s poor shot selection down the stretch forced the game into overtime.
The OT is played via Elam Ending, and whoever gets to seven points wins the game. The Raptors 905 came up empty-handed on their first four possessions, while the Nets ran on fumes. However, Chiozza managed to get a middy, while Perry’s trip to the line resulted in a split. Dowtin Jr.’s layup gave the Raptors 905 their last lead of the game at 127-126, and the defense fell apart for the hosts at the worst time. Chiozza masterfully manipulated the Raptors 905’s defense to lead Bowden for a layup and Hankerson for a dunk on the next play. Lee had a chance to keep the game closer, but he split his freebies as well. With how the game went, it was only poetic for Chiozza to grab the loose ball and find Kaiser Gates for the game-winner.
Finally got a chance to rewatch the Elam ending loss by the Raptors 905 the other day vs Nets. The Raptors 905 defended the Elam period like it's the first quarter of the game. pic.twitter.com/LcLmesBWHg— JD Quirante (@jdkeyrants) November 24, 2022
Showcase Cup Game 08: Raptors 905 unable to solve the Nets’ zone D
Raptors 905: David Johnson, Christian Vital, Kenny Wooten Jr., Gabe Brown, Reggie Perry
Long Island Nets: Donovan Williams, Kaiser Gates, RaiQuan Gray, Jordan Bowden, Chris Chiozza
Raptors 905: N/A
Long Island Nets: N/A
Gabe Brown was scorching hot from the perimeter for most of the game, finishing with 26 points and eight rebounds while dropping five three-pointers. Reggie Perry brute forced his way into a double-double, finishing with 24 points, ten rebounds, and two blocked shots. Unfortunately, he also committed a game-high six turnovers. David Johnson and Christian Vital filled the big void at the point guard spots, and the two combined for 42 points.
Gabe is moving DIFFERENT tonight— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) November 24, 2022
He’s got 21 PTS at half! pic.twitter.com/l53epC7kKW
Donovan Williams led all scorers with 30 points, hitting one timely shot after another. Chris Chiozza stuffed the stat sheet again with 21 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. His playmaking is clearly at the NBA level, and he has a big heart to back it up.
Much like the previous game, the Raptors 905 came out of the gate scorching hot. They quickly raced to an 18-6 lead thanks to a collective team effort on both ends of the floor. However, the floor opened up for the Nets when Kameron Hankerson and Kavion Pippen came into the game, with Jordan Williams and Chiozza finding their shot. David Johnson and Gabe Brown kept the Nets at bay, and consecutive defensive stops saw the Raptors 905 build a 55-41 lead midway through the second quarter. Nets’ Williams started to heat up, scoring half of their team’s 14 points to close the half and cut the Raptors 905’s lead to 68-63.
The Nets opened up the second half heavy on the zone, and they essentially sealed off the paint for Reggie Perry. The Raptors 905’s offense stalled, and the Nets are just collapsing whenever Perry gets the ball close to the basket. Meanwhile, the Nets’ Williams and Graham helped the Nets rally with an 11-4 run over the last five minutes of the third frame to tie the game at 83.
The fourth quarter is Chiozza’s time, as he took over, scoring 12 points and setting up three dimes, and more importantly, grabbed a crucial rebound late in the game, with the Raptors 905 trailing, 113-110 with 1:18 remaining. Chiozza got Perry on a switch, went ISO against him, and made a layup as he veered into his body and made a high degree of difficulty layup away from Perry’s wingspan. Chiozza also drew an and-1 foul in the process, which made Perry implode, as he got called for a tech. Despite that nonsense, Brown hit a three-pointer from way downtown to cut the Nets’ lead to 115-113, and Williams split his freebies the next play. With a three-point deficit and 10 seconds to work with, it should have been enough to get a decent shot to tie the game, right? Unfortunately, the Raptors 905 botched the play, and Brown had to take a tough, contested three-pointer that went nowhere.
Up Next: The Raptors 905 will be back next Thursday as they prepare for a rematch against Saben Lee and the Delaware Blue Coats. Meanwhile, keep an eye on the next Dial 905 piece as we review the Raptors 905 season at the Showcase Cup’s halfway point.