The Raptors 905 looked like they were about to close their regular season with a loss, and based on how things went for the first 43 minutes of the game, that seemed a fair conclusion. The Greensboro Swarm came to town loaded with assignees and was the better team for the most part, even though they were missing a couple of key regular players despite the additional reinforcements.
The game was about to slip away for the hosts, but a combination of staunch defence and torrid shooting spurred a 19-5 run over the last five minutes of the game to steal it, 119-113.
Raptors 905: Dalano Banton (NBA), Malachi Flynn (NBA), Justin Champagnie (2W), David Johnson (2W), Justin Smith
Grensboro Swarm: Scottie Lewis (2W), JT Thor (NBA), Kai Jones (NBA), James Bouknight (NBA), Joe Chealey
Raptors 905: Dalano Banton (NBA), Malachi Flynn (NBA), Justin Champagnie (2W), David Johnson (2W)
Greensboro Swarm: Scottie Lewis (2W), JT Thor (NBA), Kai Jones (NBA), James Bouknight (NBA)
Justin Champagnie led all scorers with a monster double-double, 28 points and 15 rebounds (career-high). His phenomenal performance capped off a developmental success for Toronto Raptors. Champagnie started his G League career during the Showcase Cup, where his half-court offense looked non-existent outside of putbacks and catching passes while hanging out at the dunker’s spot.
Champagnie was a reluctant perimeter shooter, as he turned down such opportunities early on. There was a good reason, he was not comfortable shooting them, and he finished the Showcase Cup shooting 12.5% from the perimeter. Champagnie improved his perimeter shooting every month, and he’s now sitting at 40.9% from deep on 6.3 attempts per game. His confidence in his perimeter shot has been sky high, and he was willing to go for the dagger with a three-pointer early in the shot clock while the team held to a four-point lead with less than a minute to go. The shot did not go in, but that shows how Champagnie’s mindset has changed from a few months ago.
It wasn’t all Champagnie for the Raptors 905. Dalano Banton was on assignment for this game, and he came up big in the fourth, putting up 13 points and four assists en route to a 21/7/9 stat line. The Raptors’ other two-way contract player David Johnson was in on the fun as well, adding 16 points and shooting well from the perimeter, hitting 4-for-6 for the night. Justin Smith filled in for Reggie Perry and added 16 points off putbacks and rolls to the basket.
The Raptors also sent down Malachi Flynn for a rehab assignment. This was Flynn’s first on-court minutes since injuring his hamstring almost a month ago. He looked rusty as expected, and he logged 2 points (1-for-6) and four assists in 14 minutes, all in the first half. After the game, coach Mutombo said that Flynn was down strictly for conditioning, and his limit was 15 minutes.
The Raptors have been without Reggie Perry for a few games now, who received another call-up from the Portland Trail Blazers. What made it worse for coach Patrick Mutombo’s team was Isaac Bonga missing the regular-season finale with a toe injury. Bonga was the defacto backup big for the Raptors 905. Against the Greensboro Swarm, which featured two tall, long, and bouncy bigs in Kai Jones and JT Thor, it was not a surprise that the Raptors 905 struggled inside the paint.
The 11th pick of this year’s NBA draft was relentless in his attacks to the basket. James Bouknight finished with 27 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and a couple of blocks and steals. The Raptors 905 had difficulty staying in front of him without fouling. Still, his aggressiveness cost him several turnovers, coughing it up seven times. The 19th pick of the draft, Kai Jones, added 14 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocked shots. Jones and Thor feasted in the paint early, utilizing their size and length to dunk over smaller Raptors 905 defenders. They also combined for 7 of their team’s 12 blocked shots (in comparison, the Raptors only had one), but the duo was non-existent in the final frame.
The game started rough for the Raptors 905. With so many new faces in and stepping into different roles, it was a surprise that they were not blown out early in the game. The lack of familiarity dogged the starters: miscommunication on switches and rotations, slow/missed rotations, ball watching, all of them caused breakdowns defensively. Swarm’s two-way contract player Scottie Lewis took advantage of this, racking up five quick points, including a pick-six off Dalano Banton. However, the Swarm only managed to put up an early 11-5 lead until the perimeter shooting of David Johnson and Justin Champagnie turned it around and gave them a momentarily lead, 24-23. It’s a good thing that the Raptors 905 did not let a bad defense affect their offense! Unfortunately, the Raptors 905’s defense slipped to finish the quarter, succumbing to the might of Thor, who racked up six straight points in the paint, and the Swarm looking at a 35-29 lead after the first period.
Lewis got things started again for the Swarm to start the second quarter, but hobbled out of the floor after taking a knee on the thigh. Malachi Flynn’s only good stretch came around this time. First, he led a fastbreak and found Josh Hall for a layup. He followed that up by breaking out his patented wrong-legged scoop layup that ended up getting goaltended. However, the Swarm’s guards, led by James Bouknight, were on attack mode often, constantly keeping the Raptors on their heels. It looked like the Swarm would pull away a few times midway through the second quarter, but every time they would build a seven-point lead, Josh Hall and Justin Smith will come up with something on the other end. Champagnie’s three-pointer put the Raptors up momentarily at 59-56, but it was a dog fight to close the half, with the Swarm eking out a 64-62 lead.
Breein Tyree started the second half over Malachi Flynn, and the Raptors 905 went on a 9-2 run to start the third period and give them a 71-66 lead. However, the Swarm would creep back and make it a dog fight from here on. The game ended up tied or with a lead change eight times over the next 12 minutes bleeding into the fourth, which sets the stage for one of the team’s better comebacks this season.
With the game tied at 96, Swarm’s Joe Chealey and Jarrell Brantley combined for a 6-0 run, pushing the momentum to their side, forcing coach Mutombo to call a timeout. The Raptors 905 responded with Banton’s tip-dunk off Champagnie’s miss, but they couldn’t make any stops on the other end. The Swarm made that initial 6-0 run to a 12-4 run, giving them their biggest lead at 108-100 with around five minutes to go and the momentum fully on their side.
However, that’s when the ragtag crew of Ashton Hagans, Champagnie, Banton, Johnson, and Smith collectively leaned forward on their gaming chair and turned the intensity to a whole new level. The hosts displayed excellent ball movement on the next play. Every pass got closer to the basket, which led to Smith’s layup to cut the lead to six. The Swarm helped a bit with an unforced turnover on their end, or perhaps they were feeling the nerves.
The Raptors 905 came back with another half-court set that led to Champagnie’s lefty layup, but it was off. However, Smith slapped the ball out, and it ended up with Hagans. Banton did a reset on their possession, and executed a quick drive-and-kick to Champagnie for a corner three! The momentum swing forced the Swarm to call a timeout, but the Raptors 905 surprised them with a zone defense. The Raptors 905 prevented the Swarm from getting the ball past the top of the free-throw line circle, forcing a tough shot as the shot clock expired, and Banton hit turbo on his 45 Express for a coast-to-coast dunk!
The 905ers’ defense took the Swarm to the end of their shot clock again, yielding a tough three-pointer to Scottie Lewis that bricked. Banton’s fake DHO sent him to the line, but he missed the freebie (in the G League, they employ a 1-for-2 free-throw gimmick until the 2-minute mark). Swarm’s Chealey got on the teeth of the 905ers’ defense, but elected to kick it out to wide-open Brantley, who bricked another three-pointer. The hosts came back with Banton initiating a DHO to Johnson, who pulled up from around 25ft to put the Raptors 905 up, 110-108 with just over two minutes to go.
The next possession was another drought for the Swarm, and this time, they were unable to take a shot for a violation. The 905ers came back on the other end, and remember Banton’s drive-and-kick to Champagnie earlier? Neither did the Swarm, as Banton executed an identical play to get Champagnie another corner three! That sequence prompted another Swarm timeout, as they are in a deep hole, trailing 113-108 with around 90 seconds to go. The 905ers took the Swarm to the end of their shot clock again, but this time, Bouknight was able to drill a contested 26ft three-pointer at the buzzer.
Banton, who’s had some success as the closer for the Raptors 905 a few times, called for his own number, this time, drilling a middy with about a minute to go. The Swarm came back with back-to-back three-pointer bricks, and Champagnie tried to put a nail in the coffin with an early transition trifecta. Love the confidence, but unfortunately, he missed it. Smith grabbed the board, and coach Mutombo called for a timeout. The ATO called for a Johnson ISO, but his layup rimmed out, leading to Brantley’s coast-to-coast for a layup, cutting the lead to 115-113 with around 19 seconds to go. The Swarm sent Johnson to the line, hitting both free throws, and that’s the game.
While Banton and Champagnie will get flowers for this game, I won’t forget to give props to Johnson, who’s been an integral part of many Raptors 905 comebacks this season. He was lowkey just as big of a factor down the stretch, forcing a turnover and shutting down Brantley and Crutcher several times. The late trifecta and the clutch free throws down the stretch were just cherries on the top.
Up Next: The Raptors 905 earned a 1st round bye, so they won’t be back on the court until Thursday, April 7th, as they wait for the winner of Capital City GoGo and College Park SkyHawks.