Make no mistake about it — last night’s Raptors 905 game against the College Park Skyhawks was an operation for Svi Mykhailiuk to get his groove back. After a rocky start, Sviji caught fire, dropping a 40-piece on the Skyhawks, as the Raptors 905 handily beat them to the tune of 128-104.
Dalano Banton was also on assignment, and he added 22 points and 12 rebounds. Justin Champagnie shook off a slow start, putting up 16 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks. Reggie Perry came off the bench and casually posted 17 points and 14 boards. In comparison, Ashton Hagans’ fingerprints were all over the game with his 8 points, 11 assists, and three steals, and he got the nod to start the second half in place of David Johnson, who had to leave three minutes into the game.
Mykhailiuk was locked in early and often looking to get his shot going early, but he struggled by going for 2-for-12 from behind the arc through three and a half quarters. However, he was productive elsewhere, getting the angles on his drives to get a layup here and there to fish for shooting foul several times while attempting a trifecta. Sviji caught fire late in the fourth quarter, as he dropped five straight three-pointers to stave off the Skyhawks’ attempt to get within striking distance.
The Raptors 905 dominated the battle of the boards (+29), and those 2-for-1/3-for-1 free throws worked to their advantage, with 11 of Mykhailiuk 40 points coming from this fashion. Skyhawks were led by a new acquisition in Armoni Brooks, putting up 24 points and six trifectas off the bench. Cat Barber chipped in 16 points and nine assists, and local kid AJ Lawson added 10 points, six rebounds, and two steals.
It has been a tough season for Svi Mykhailiuk. Things have not gone as planned for Toronto Raptors’ defacto backup shooting guard. His inability to contribute offensively early this season led to his demotion to the deep bench, and even garbage time minutes were tough for him. Until last Monday.
The Raptors blew out the Brooklyn Nets on the first game of their back-to-back. It gave coach Nick Nurse a chance to get into his deep bench early, affording Mykhailiuk almost ten minutes in the fourth quarter. He got a couple of threes and a layup, and it looked like he was starting to loosen up. Unfortunately, Mykhailiuk did not play on their rematch against the Nets at home the following day. Since both the Raptors and Raptors 905 are at home this week, it makes sense to see him get some in-game reps and see if he can get out of his funk — but it comes with a risk. If Mykhailiuk continues to struggle at this level, there’s no knowing whether we can get him “back” this season.
Svi's first bucket in the 905 ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/Xszdap9vJy— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) March 3, 2022
Sviji received the ultimate green light for this game, going on attack mode every time he touched the ball. He attacked the basket on his first touch but failed to convert. He did get the rebound for a putback. A few plays later, he got the ball in transition but lost it on the way to the basket. David Johnson appeared to have tweaked something, as he looked gimpy after contesting Marcus Georges-Hunt’s fastbreak layup. The lack of familiarity with the starters got them into an early 14-8 deficit. Sviji got his first three-point attempt the following play but was fouled in the process.
The feisty duo of Ashton Hagans and Aaron Best came off the bench and immediately changed the game’s atmosphere. The defensive intensity got higher, and Hagans drawing an offensive foul was Exhibit A. Mykhailiuk’s catch-and-shoot three-pointer clanked, but Isaac Bonga started the “board-man gets paid” domination, getting the offensive rebound and quickly finding Justin Champagnie for an and-1 layup.
Mykhailiuk missed another three-pointer; he was wide open and squared up, but he rushed to get the shot up. He needed to calm down a bit, so coach Patrick Mutombo decided that it was time to get him some rest. The all-bench squad led by Aaron Best went on a 17-6 run to close the quarter, outperforming the starters by a mile, ending the first period with a 30-22 lead.
Coach Mutombo’s 3-point guard+2 forward bench lineup was too quick and too feisty for the Skyhawks, going on an 11-5 run to post their then-biggest lead of 41-27. However, Armoni Brooks starter to take over for the Skyhawks, helping them go on their own 11-5 run to get within striking distance.
Mykhailiuk came back halfway into the second quarter and found himself getting past his defender for a lefty layup but missed the shot. Perhaps he hesitated whether to use the board or not. After several sloppy plays from both teams, Mykhailiuk got the rebound, drove to the basket and earned a trip to the line. Justin Champagnie tried to set Sviji up for a DHO, but Mykhailiuk lost the ball on the way to the basket. The Raptors 905 were really trying to get him going, but it just wasn’t happening naturally. Champagnie grabbed a Skyhawks miss and found Mykhailiuk near the halfcourt, and Sviji slowed down enough to get into his rhythm and pulled up for his first three-point make.
The Skyhawks got to within six points late in the first half, but Dalano Banton pressed the turbo button and got an and-1 and followed it up by tipping his own miss the next play for a quick 5-0 run. The Raptors 905 held a 58-49 lead entering the second half. Aaron Best led the Raptors with 13 points, but Sviji was not too far behind with 10 points at this point.
The Raptors ran a set play to get Mykhailiuk an open three-pointer, but it was wide right. The starters (Ashton Hagans in for David Johnson) came out of the break with a better intensity. They forced the Skyhawks to a shot-clock violation on their first possession. The team gang-rebounded Mykhailiuk’s missed three-pointer for a putback by Bonga the following play. Champagnie looked like he got 3-4 offensive rebounds before getting the layup right, forcing the Skyhawks to call a timeout, with the lead going up to 66-49.
Hagans picked the pocket of Cat Barber and looked for Mykhailiuk for a corner three but missed his attempt. Bonga battled against three defenders for the live ball and wisely tapped the ball over to Mykhailiuk’s area, who grabbed the loose ball and swished a corner three, pushing the lead to 20 points. The Skyhawks pulled to within 14, but Bonga and Banton prevented them from getting any closer. Banton tried to give a DHO to Mykhailiuk, but the pull-up three bricked.
After a timeout, coach Mutombo drew another play for Mykhailiuk to get a catch-and-shoot three, but it was a little short. It still looked like he was still rushing the shot a little bit. Brooks’ three-pointer put the Skyhawks within 79-67, but Banton answered with his only trifecta of the game. Mykhailiuk got another crack behind the arc, this time, going for a pull-up after a couple of dribbles, but the shot was long. Banton called for a play to get Mykhailiuk open for a three-pointer. Still, his defender overplayed the pass, and Mykhailiuk got to the backdoor for a layup and got an and-1. Perry’s dunk pushed the lead to 20 points, but the Skyhawks went on a 6-0 run that was stopped by Champagnie’s three-pointer before the end of the quarter, heading to the fourth with a 92-75 lead.
One of the underrated aspects of Sviji’s game is his passing. A Mykhailiuk-Perry pick-and-roll brought us a laser lefty pass from Mykhailiuk, but Perry looked like he was not sure where he was, and elected to kick the ball to Banton for a missed corner three. The miss set Canadian AJ Lawson downhill against Mykhailiuk and got the and-1 against the Raptor.
A BLOB got Mykhailiuk a catch-and-shoot three at the bottom corner, but it was long again. Fortunately, Champagnie was able to tip the rebound to Breein Tyree, who was wide open under the basket for a layup. The Skyhawks got to within 13 points, but Perry’s DHO setup for Mykhailiuk resulted in a shooting foul, and Sviji got his 19th point.
With the lead down to 11, Sviji found himself with an ISO against Georges-Hunt, but a stray elbow got Mykhailiuk called for an offensive foul. Mykhailiuk quickly atoned for that play, as he stopped AJ Lawson at the rim and went coast to coast for a lefty layup.
As we approached midway through the fourth quarter, and the Skyhawks threatened to make this a close affair, the atmosphere changed as the game entered the Sviji mode. Bonga found Mykhailiuk for a three-pointer early in transition, and he nailed a contested trifecta. Mykhailiuk shook off his defender a few possessions later and went for a layup, earning another trip to the line to get his 26th point.
Hagans’ drive-and-kick to Bonga led to a swing pass to Mykhailiuk, as he calmly knocked down his second straight three-pointer. The next possession, the Skyhawks trapped Hagans up top. Hagans found Perry at the nail, who had a 4-on-3 play going on, and read the defense well by kicking the ball to the corner where Mykhailiuk was waiting. Splash goes his third trifecta in a row which got Pascal Siakam excited on the sideline.
The Skyhawks tried to do a full-court trap after their make, but Hagans saw Mykhailiuk streaking down the floor and got an easy layup. The next play — why not? The Raptors called for Sviji to go from one corner to the other and, with Perry’s screen assist, calmly made his fourth three-pointer in a row. With a 21 point lead and 30 seconds to go, this game was essentially over, but why not attempt a heat check from the Tangerine logo? Annnd there you go, a contested long-range trifecta for his 40th point.
Up Next: The Raptors 905 don’t play until next Monday, where they travel to visit Maine Celtics for a one-off. The Raptors also recalled Svi Mykhailiuk, Dalano Banton, and Isaac Bonga shortly after the game, and who knows, maybe we’ll see Sviji get a shot to get his rotation spot back.