The Raptors 905’s defensive issues followed them as they visited the College Park Skyhawks this weekend. The offense was not a problem, as they’ve averaged at least 121 points per game over their last five games. The problem? They are much more willing to exchange baskets, allowing their opponents to score at least 128 points. The Skyhawks just did enough to hold the Raptors 905 from taking the game from them, bending but not breaking. The visitors couldn’t put together a solid run to fully swing the momentum, as they saw their rallies fall short multiple times, eventually succumbing to a 125-121 defeat.
Raptors 905: Jeff Dowtin Jr., Justin Champagnie, Ron Harper Jr., Gabe Brown, Reggie Perry
College Park Skyhawks: Langston Galloway, Jared Rhoden, Chris Silva, Armoni Brooks, Brandon Williams
Raptors 905: Jeff Dowtin Jr. (TW), Ron Harper Jr. (TW), Justin Champagnie (NBA)
College Park Skyhawks: N/A
Reggie Perry had another big game for the Raptors 905, putting up 27 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots. He even kept his turnovers in check, only committing three for this game. Perry also managed to play through early foul trouble while banging with Skyhawks’ big Chris Silva.
Justin Champagnie, Ron Harper Jr., and Jeff Dowtin Jr. all chipped in 18 points each. Champagnie had a monster double-double, adding 15 boards to his stats. Harper Jr. added eight rebounds and three blocked shots, but neither he nor Champagnie shot well from the field. Dowtin Jr. had a relatively quiet game, scoring only two points in the fourth period, where he would typically take over.
The Skyhawks’ Brandon Williams led all scorers with 30 points and routinely shredded the Raptors 905’s interior defense. Raptors old friend Armoni Brooks added 19 points and nine rebounds, including a clutch trifecta late in the game to douse water on the Raptors 905’s late rally. Jared Rhoden matched Champagnie’s utility on the floor. He did it better, with an efficient 21 points and 15 rebounds, hitting three of his four perimeter attempts.
Usually, I would do a summary for every quarter, but with their fifth straight loss, let’s go over what’s ailing this team.
Interior defense. Reggie Perry is a solid big, but he’s nowhere near the traditional big that would offer constant rim protection. His teammates can’t just get blown by too easily and expect Perry to be there and bail them out. He’s not Christian Koloko, who’s got massive length, quickness, and shot-blocking instinct. Most of Perry’s blocks and good contests came from solid point-of-attack defense, and he’s there to seal a good defensive possession. Just look at all the shifty guards the Raptors 905 have faced so far, with Brandon Williams, as the most recent example, feasting on the paint.
Perry’s backup. The Raptors 905 acquired Kenny Wooten so that they have a backup big, and when he plays, he’s been a terrific defensive anchor for the team. The problem is the negative spacing that he brings to the team, forcing the team to either take a tightly contested shot in the paint or settle for a three-pointer. Perry’s other backup, Ryan Hawkins, is tall but not a “big” even at the NBA G League level. He doesn’t offer the same protection as most bigs, even as a power forward. In most games, he’s a liability defensively, as teams targeted him with how the Raptors 905 switches on defense.
Point-of-attack defense. Saben Lee was great for the Raptors 905 when he was still with the team, but the signs were already there even before he left. The opposing guards/wings were getting past their defenders too easily, not giving the help defense enough time to cover for their teammates.
Defensive Scheme Execution. Ten games in, and the team still needs more chemistry and consistent discipline with their team defense. Sure, they are getting some good individual defensive stops here and there, leading to pick-sixes. Still, it’s hard to implement the same defense the main club employs if the players aren’t on the same page. There are far too many blown rotations, mixups, and effort in getting back defensively. I’ve never seen a Raptors 905 team that gave up more early transition layups after their own make than this team.
Bench Production. Their bench scoring relies on David Johnson, Christian Vital, and Melvin Frazier. However, their minutes and touches are inconsistent. They all need to touch the ball more often to have a more positive impact scoring-wise. Vital is a much better off-ball player, but his shooting is streaky. It’s not surprising that their best games featured them moving up a few pegs in the rotation, getting plenty of reps as the team’s playmakers.
Offensive Discipline. I’m all for getting reps on things a player needs to work on, but there has to be a healthy balance. Ideally, the team should stick to the offensive scheme. It’s OK to have Perry ISO on certain situations and matchups, but when he’s hoisting up off-rhythm three-point shots, it’s not OK. Are Gabe Brown, Justin Champagnie, and Ron Harper Jr.’s shot selection getting questionable? They have to keep those shots within the flow of the game instead. I don’t even want to get into the late-game execution of the plays that coach Khoury would draw up, as they almost always failed badly so far. Also, what was Dowtin Jr. thinking when he grabbed the rebound late in the game against the Skyhawks? They were down four with eight seconds left, opting for a tough middy with two teammates wide open around the perimeter.
Even without the last two points above, the bottom line is that if the Raptors 905 can play with a decent defense, they would have been in a good spot to contend for a playoff spot. They are in the game for the most part but need a solid run to put the game away or complete a comeback attempt. Like last night against the Skyhawks, they were just short of a solid run to pull off a late comeback, and defense was the root cause of their problem.
The 905 will have a chance to solve some of their problems today when they host the Greensboro Swarm at Scotiabank Arena in a daytime affair.