It’s Raptors 905 game day today, and it’s a special one. They begin their NBA G League playoff campaign today as they host the Capital City Go-Go in a knock-out game tonight at Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga.
Yes, this season, the Raptors 905’s first playoff game is a do-or-die game. They earned a first-round “bye” for finishing at the top of their conference. Sadly, there’s no other perk associated with finishing with the best record outside of the homecourt advantage. The Capital City Go-Go already went through a stressful knock-out game, besting the College Park Skyhawks the other night for the right to face the Raptors 905.
If you have not been following the Raptors 905 games this season - don’t worry; we have you covered.
As mentioned above, the best team for each conference earns a “bye” in the first round. The first three rounds are all knock-out games, while the NBA G League Finals will be played on a best-of-three series with a home-away-home format.
The Raptors 905 need to win two games to advance to the NBA G League Finals, but they have the homecourt advantage all the way to the finals. The flipside here is that the best team in the regular season can be bounced easily by a loss against the Capital City Go-Go or their next opponent.
Coach Patrick Mutombo should be this season’s NBA G League coach of the year. Coach Mutombo and his coaching staff have done a great job pushing this team to the top of the standings and developing their players. Players, yes, not just the Toronto Raptors’ prospects.
Thanks to their egalitarian offence and a position-less system, almost every number that coach Mutombo called from the bench had their moment throughout the season. The Raptors 905 doesn’t have a traditional “big” much like their main club, but the comparison ends there. They don’t have an army of 6’9” forwards; instead, they had Reggie Perry and Isaac Bonga masquerading as their small-ball five. At the same time, most of their rotation players are 6’5” and shorter, which makes this team really impressive, as they’re doing what the Raptors are doing, but with shorter players.
The Raptors 905 relies on their defense (best defensive rating) and metrics involving effort plays. Despite being undersized, they are second in the league in rebounding and second-chance points. The team is also 1st in fastbreak points.
For the Raptors 905, it comes down to ball pressure, defense, hustle, grit, and resiliency. Yes, resiliency, as their offense may come and go, but they won’t be unfazed by a double-digit lead. In a way, they have the Raptors’ DNA of turning a big deficit game into an “agents of chaos” type of game that allows them to muster a huge comeback.
The trio of Ashton Hagans, Brein Tyree, and Aaron Best ensures that the Raptors 905 can employ ball pressure at the point of attack for the full 48 minutes.
Despite finishing with the best record in the NBA G League, the Raptors 905 doesn’t stand out across several offensive metrics. They are middle of the pack in scoring, three-point shooting, and assists to name a few categories. Heck, they’re even at the lower end when it comes to field goal shooting.
Their best pure three-point shooter left the team (Jodie Meeks - 48.5% 3P%), and if not for Justin Champagnie’s three-point explosion these past few months, the best shooter with a minimum of 15 makes in the regular season is Breein Tyree at 35.7%.
The Raptors 905 also lost their key piece to their offense when the Portland Trail Blazers called up Reggie Perry. Certainly, the team will miss Perry’s contributions on both ends of the floor, but coach Mutombo has been on this road before, so they would be able to make the necessary adjustments.
Raptors doing their 905 friends a solid, have assigned Banton, Bonga, Champagnie and Johnson to the D League for a playoff game in glorious Mississauga tomorrow. 905 vs. Capital City Go-Go (a truly great team name) in sudden death game— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) April 6, 2022
Anunoby and Watanabe remain questionable.
Justin Champagnie’s role offensively has evolved from a power forward hanging out at the dunker’s spot to a catch-and-shoot perimeter shooter. That’s a heck of an in-season improvement, given how uncomfortable and unwilling he was in taking those perimeter shots earlier this season.
David Johnson’s role varies almost every possession. Often, he’s working off-ball as a floor spacer, but now and then, his number could be called to score by posting up smaller guards. Johnson’s presence also guarantees another ballhandler/secondary facilitator at all times, not to mention his solid defense.
Dalano Banton’s the point guard and the alpha when he’s on the floor. He’s got the green light whether to go coast-to-coast, call his own number, or facilitate.
Dalano Banton’s got the keys for the starting point guard spot, and he brings size to the lineup at his position. Breein Tyree has been backing him up, but Ashton Hagans has done it in the past as well.
Any half-court offense can go stale, especially if the opposing teams can blow the half-court set in play. With the clock ticking down, the ball has to go to someone who can create a shot for himself or others. Aside from Banton, the Raptors 905 have Kevon Harris and Breein Tyree to fill this role.
Harris is more of a traditional shooting guard. He’s got an array of moves, from pulling up from the perimeter to putting his head down and finishing around the basket with either hand. He would leverage his handle, spin moves, and dexterity to either get in-between defenders or absorb contact when finishing around the basket. On the other hand, Tyree is more of a combo guard that relies on his quickness and athleticism to get to the basket. He can shoot from the perimeter, but he’s been streaky this season.
With the departure of Reggie Perry, Isaac Bonga becomes the defacto guy in the middle. Justin Smith should be the backup centre, given his institutional knowledge over Michael Gilmore. Smith is an undersized power forward with excellent hops, but his offense is limited in floaters (think Khem Birch), putbacks, and dump-offs around the basket. Gilmore is taller and longer but with a lesser offensive skill set outside the dunker’s spot. Sadly, neither players offer consistent rim protection.
Swiss Army Knives
These players often adjust their role based on what is needed, whether on a game-to-game or possession-to-possession basis. They can play the point one time, switch to floor spacer, play backup point guard, or be a secondary facilitator. On defense, they’re expected to punch more than their weight. David Johnson is one of them, and so is Isaac Bonga. Aaron Best and Ashton Hagans belong to this group as well.
Break in case of emergency
These guys are serviceable players, but they either have fallen out of the rotation or failed to crack the rotation for one reason or another. Josh Hall’s health has hampered his season, but as we have seen recently, he can score as a wing/slasher. Obadiah Noel fits the profile as well, but with added shooting. Noel was part of the key rotation before but lost his spot; however, he has proven that he can score in bunches.
The Capital City Go-Go swept the Raptors 905 during the regular season (two games) and split the two games they played during the Showcase Cup. However, they haven’t played each other in more than two months.
The Capital City Go-Go’s big lineup poses a problem for the Raptors 905, especially with Reggie Perry out of the lineup. Jaime Echenique is a load in the paint, and while his game screams of 90’s basketball, at the end of the day, he’s putting up a 17 and 10. However, even as a big, he’s not someone that’s going to swat shots around the rim regularly.
Echenique leads the team in scoring, but don’t let that fool you. They have a team that can have other players go off, especially if they catch fire from the perimeter. In four contests, Jordan Schakel, Malachi Flynn’s former backcourt partner at San Diego State, is averaging 4.5 3PM per game against the Raptors 905. Jordan Goodwin and Cassius Winston both have had good games against the Raptors 905, while Joel Ayayi has had an excellent two-way performance every time he plays against the Raptors 905.
Isaiah Todd, the Washington Wizards’ 31st pick of the 2021 draft, can be a problem with his size and perimeter shooting. He looked like the Phoenix Suns version of Channing Frye at times against the Raptors 905.
Through four meetings, the Capital City Go-Go might be the better team after going 3-1 against the Raptors 905. The Go-Go’s got the size, strength, and continuity advantage, especially with the Raptors 905 missing Reggie Perry for the foreseeable future. The visitors shoot the second-worst percentage from the perimeter this season (31.5%) and attempts the fewest (28.9 3PA), but they have looked like Golden State Warriors against the Raptors 905 at times. The Go-Gos are also one of the few teams that have successfully game-planned on Dalano Banton and Isaac Bonga’s weaknesses, so it’s safe to say that they have a competent coaching staff. However, much like the Raptors 905’s only win, you can’t count this team out even if they are down 20-0 to start the game.
A few factors are in the Raptors 905’s favour, such as the improved shooting of Justin Champagnie and David Johnson. They have also learned how to play without Perry, and this time, the Raptors 905 will have the crowd supporting them. While the Raptors 905 may be at a disadvantage in the paint, I think the winner of tonight’s game might come down to whichever team gets hot from the perimeter.
Where to Watch
NBA TV Canada & Raptors905 livestream, 7:30 PM EST
Raptors 905 – Dalano Banton (NBA), David Johnson (2W), Justin Champagnie (2W), Isaac Bonga (NBA), Kevon Harris
Capital City Go-Go – Jordan Shakel (2W), Isaiah Todd (NBA), Jaime Echenique, Jordan Goodwin, Joel Ayayi
Toronto – OG Anunoby (thigh – questionable), Yuta Watanabe (quad – questionable)