The Raptors 905’s season is over. They fell one win short of making a G League Finals appearance, and despite fighting through the end, the Delaware Blue Coats were just slightly better. The end result? The 905 exit the playoffs after a 143-139 loss.
Wait, what? 143? 139?
Last Sunday, the Raptors 905 scored their third-highest total points (139) in franchise history despite missing Reggie Perry’s “usual” 20 points per game. However, that wasn’t enough to beat the Delaware Blue Coats, to whom they surrendered a franchise record of 143 points.
Offensively, the Raptors 905 played well enough to win the game. They scored 74 points in the paint as they took advantage of a small Blue Coats team who had Charlie Brown Jr. as their tallest player at around 6’6” and got to the paint pretty much whenever they wanted. They also made 14 three-pointers, which is on the high-end of their makes per game despite shooting under 32% for the game, which is just slightly lower than their season average.
So how did they lose?
Issue #1: Turnovers, especially those that led to fastbreak points.
The Delaware Blue Coats came to Mississauga on a mission. They succeeded in executing their game plan all season long: Force their opponents into turnovers and get plenty of “pick-six” opportunities. The Blue Coats forced the Raptors 905 into coughing up 20 turnovers, with fifteen of them coming in the first 27 minutes of the game. Meanwhile, the Raptors 905 forced the Blue Coats to only 10 turnovers, and the Blue Coats enjoyed a healthy +20 difference in points off turnovers.
Give credit to the Blue Coats for their defense, but a healthy number of the Raptors 905’s turnovers were self-inflicted and bad decisions by the passer. For example, David Johnson tried to do a short bounce pass to Justin Smith between two Blue Coats defenders instead of throwing it up where Smith had the advantage. Another was the back-breaking turnover between Johnson and Kevon Harris off a timeout late in the game.
Issue #2: 50/50 balls
The Raptors 905 had a healthy 61-35 rebounding advantage, including a 26-9 in offensive rebounds and killed the Blue Coats in second-chance points, 32-14. However, watching the game, the visitors made the most of their second-chance opportunities and won a lot of 50/50 balls, especially when it mattered the most.
Issue #3: Defense
If a team scores 143 on you in regulation, sorry, but that’s terrible defense. During the first playoff game against the Capital City Go-Go, the signs were there. The Raptors 905 had trouble containing the point of attack, and the guards got their way. The attention to detail wasn’t the best, like chasing Shaquille Harrison and Shamorie Ponds out of the perimeter when they were the teams’ worst shooters. There were plenty of moments where the Raptors 905 didn’t make switches on time, and the Blue Coats made them pay for that. The worst part, I think the Blue Coats caught the Raptors 905 sleeping several times and had their off-ball players get an easy layup via backdoor cuts to the basket.
There will be “sync issues” defensively whenever players like Dalano Banton and Malachi Flynn play in Mississauga since they often don’t get to practice with them. Additionally, Justin Smith had bigger shoes to fill with Reggie Perry’s absense. He’s more of a forward, and Perry’s just a much better all-around defender than him. The Raptors 905’s best defensive lineup last Sunday instead had Bonga-Harris-Johnson-Champagnie-Banton.
Issue #4: Blue Coats’ deeper bench
As much as we love the Raptors 905’s bench, the Blue Coats’ roster’s got more punch scoring-wise. They were already missing Charles Bassey and Paul Reed as they were with the main club for their season finale, while their rookie phenom Jaden Springer, who’s averaged 22+ in three games against the Raptors 905 was a late scratch. The Blue Coats also didn’t have Braxton Key and Haywood Highsmith (called up by the Miami Heat), both prolific scorers at the G League level.
Issue #5: Fatigue
Coach Mutombo played Dalano Banton for almost 44 minutes, while Champagnie was on the floor for around 36 minutes. They played pretty much the entire first, third, and fourth quarters. If not for Champagnie’s foul trouble in the second quarter, I would not be surprised if he played 44 minutes as well. Kevon Harris played the last quarter-and-a-half, while Aaron Best played for 12 straight minutes before exiting with 15 points and seven rebounds with around three minutes left in the game. The Raptors 905 dug deep late in the game, bringing the lead down to four several times; however, they would cough up the ball or not get the 50/50 ball. They could be signs of fatigue, considering Banton was scoreless in the fourth quarter.
If there’s any consolation prize, the Toronto Raptors fanbase should be happy with the development of their prospects. Justin Champagnie dropped 36 points and ten rebounds, including five three-pointers. It’s encouraging to see the way he was hunting those perimeter shots.
Dalano Banton tried to carry the team and ended up with 34 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds, but he had a game-high six turnovers. Isaac Bonga had quiet first three-quarters and finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. It looks like he’s not fully back from his injury, as he was noticeably more like Serge Ibaka than Pascal Siakam defending in space on the perimeter. Still, he gutted it through in the fourth period and was instrumental in their comeback attempt. David Johnson had a decent start, finishing with 10 points, three assists, and two steals, but had a forgettable last three minutes of the game.
The Raptors 905’s bench got some decent production from Kevon Harris, who added 16 points and nine rebounds, and Aaron Best’s 15 points and seven rebounds.
Sixers’ two-way contract player Myles Powell dropped 34 points off the bench, including four trifectas. Watching the game, it felt like he didn’t miss a shot. Charlie Brown Jr added 28 points and eight rebounds, while Aaron Henry and Shaquille Harrison both almost had a triple-double (Henry 23/8/9 and Harrison 17/9/13). Old friends Shamorie Ponds (5 points, 1-for-5 shooting) and Patrick McCaw (8 points, 3-for-7 shooting) came off the bench for the Blue Coats as well.
Up Next: Raptors 905 season recap and individual grades coming soon!