The Raptors 905 made their regular season home debut with a bang. They handed the previously undefeated Capital City Go-Go — who walked into Paramount Fine Foods Centre with a 5-0 record — their first loss.
Game 1 of the basketball series probably had the most talent in the roster since the good old days of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, and Bruno Caboclo, et al donning the 905 jersey.
Joe Wieskamp, who’s currently on a 10-day contract, got to audition in front of fans, and he came as advertised — hitting 4-for-6 from behind the arc. Dalano Banton’s back to his electric ways, with clutch after clutch shots in the fourth. The team was so crazy deep for this game that Jeff Dowtin Jr. and Reggie Perry had to come off the bench.
There was a solid stretch in the second quarter where the Raptors 905 locked in defensively. The ball pressure of Lee, Dowtin Jr. and Banton made it almost impossible for the Go-Go to set up shop in the half-court, and it was a deflection, if not steals galore for several possessions.
Game 2 was a letdown for the Raptors 905, as they could not contain the downhill attacks of the Go-Gos. Saben Lee missed the game for “personal” reasons, and the team definitely missed his point-of-attack defense. Perhaps that “personal reason” was a chance to audition in front of the Phoenix Suns, as they announced that they signed him to a 10-day contract.
The same game also saw the Go-Go dominate the paint for the second game in a row — this time, partially without Vernon Carey Jr. Carey left midway through the third period due to a foot injury, but paved the way for Makur Maker’s career high. Hey Bobby/Masai, did you catch this game? Look, a 7’ that can shoot and is fluid enough to put the ball on the floor.
Despite coming off the bench in the first game, Perry led the way for the Raptors 905 in this series. He averaged 29 points, 7.5 rebounds, and two blocked shots. His perimeter shooting was down, but he only committed two turnovers in two games.
Banton tallied 26.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and five assists. His 3P% doesn’t jump out, as he’s been forcing some of them, but the fluidity in his shooting motion is there for the most part. If he has to stay within the flow of the offense, even if the attempts go down, I can see him making two trifectas a game at the G League level.
Ron Harper Jr. broke out of his perimeter shooting slump, posting 19.5 points on 38.5% shooting from behind the arc. Dowtin Jr. only played one game but displayed excellent defense in 25 minutes and was a perfect complementary piece off the bench.
Saben Lee earns another Call-up
Saben Lee’s numbers might not pop this season, considering he had better counting stats with the Motor City Cruise last year, but one thing stands out — Lee plays a winning type of basketball. He’s one of the team’s best defender and can really make it difficult for the opposing ball handler to initiate their offense. He’s got decent size for his position, but his physicality allows him to go against bigger players. Defensively, he’s kind of a Jrue Holiday starter pack. Technically, he’s everything that the Raptors wanted from Malachi Flynn and Dowtin Jr. on the defensive end.
Lee’s perimeter shooting is why he’s in the G League, as he struggled from behind the arc during the regular season (29.8%) with the Motor City Cruise last year and the Showcase Cup with the Raptors 905 this season, hitting 30.8%. However, Lee is an outstanding playmaker and quite capable from inside the arc, often muscling his way to the basket, which is why teams are intrigued by him.
He’s upped his percentages since coming back to the fold after the Philadelphia 76ers waived him, and he’s now shooting a decent 35.3% from behind the arc through five games. Against the Go-Go, his defenders gave him the Russell Westbrook treatment, sagging way down low and not bothering to contest his shot. However, Lee made them pay, converting three trifectas that were wide open. Maybe he’s turning it around, and perhaps the Suns can do to him whatever magic they did to get Cam Payne right.
Joe Wieskamp - First Impressions
When I covered the 2021 RaptorsHQ draft, I toyed with the idea of using one of the 2nd round picks with a bunch of wings. Joe Wieskamp was one of them, and he was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with their 41st pick, making him unavailable by the time the Raptors picked 46th. I made a bit of a compare/contrast between him and Matt Thomas and why I think he might be a better prospect than Matty Ice.
As I mentioned earlier, his shot is as advertised — he looked smooth and effortless, making his perimeter shots. What’s encouraging is his off-ball movement. It took a while for his team to get used to him on the floor, which was evident as his teammates didn’t see him open in the first quarter. Eventually, his teammates noticed his existence, but Wieskamp made an effort with his movement/relocation, which led to his shot opportunities.
Additionally, Wieskamp didn’t look like a fish out of the water defensively, but there were plenty of instances where the Go-Go’s guards sought him as a favourable matchup in the half-court.
Wieskamp offers length and rebounding, and as I noted in my draft piece, he’s got decent counters if his defender makes him put the ball on the floor. He’s got good size and shooting, so the Raptors should hold onto him a bit longer unless someone better comes along.
Regular Season Game 05: Dalano Banton takes over in the clutch to give the Capital City Go-Go their first loss of the season 122-119
Raptors 905: Saben Lee, Dalano Banton, Ron Harper Jr., Joe Wieskamp, Kenny Wooten
Capital City Go-Go: Devon Dotson, Craig Sword, Jules Bernard, Jordan Schakel, Vernon Carey Jr.
Raptors 905: Ron Harper Jr. (TW), Dalano Banton (NBA), Joe Wieskamp (NBA), Jeff Dowtin Jr. (TW)
Capital City Go-Go: Vernon Carey Jr. (NBA), Devon Dotson (TW), Isaiah Todd (NBA)
Dalano Banton was electric down the stretch for the Raptors 905, scoring 12 of his game-high 29 points in the last four minutes. Joe Wieskamp looked impressive for his Raptors 905 debut, putting up 19 points and seven rebounds while hitting 4-for-6 from the perimeter. Reggie Perry added 21 points, six rebounds, and two blocks off the bench. Ron Harper Jr. broke out of his three-point shooting slump, going 3-for-8 from behind the arc en route to 17 points and two blocks.
Capital City Go-Go’s Vernon Carey Jr. was a force in the middle, putting up 25 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists while collapsing the Raptors 905’s defense in the paint. The Go-Go’s downhill specialists had a big night as well — Devon Dotson had 15 points and eight assists, while Kris Dunn added 18 points and 10 assists off the bench.
The Raptors 905 won the three-point battle with a +21 differential. Still, the Go-Go closed the gap with their rebounding (50 vs 36), generating a 23 to 12 2nd chance points advantage and relying on their transition attack, leading the fast break category 17 points to the Raptors 905’s six points.
The home team started a makeshift lineup of Saben Lee, Dalano Banton, Joe Wieskamp, Ron Harper Jr., and Kenny Wooten. Their lack of familiarity gave the Go-Go plenty of defensive loopholes to exploit as they raced to a 13-5 lead. As always, Vernon Carey Jr. put a lot of pressure on the Raptors 905’s defense and rebounding, helping the Go-Go to a 23-15 lead with less than four minutes to go. The Raptors 905’s hybrid lineup of Lee, Harper Jr., Gabe Brown, Reggie Perry, and Jeff Dowtin Jr. propelled the hometown team to an 11-0 run to close the quarter up, 26-23.
Joe Wieskamp is THAT GUY from deep ☔️ pic.twitter.com/8N3WSmHFPx— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) January 10, 2023
Wieskamp didn’t get his first perimeter attempt until early in the second quarter when Kelly found him drifting above the break, and the shot was as advertised. He added two more trifectas, and Harper Jr. also made his own, but the 905ers could not pull away, as the Go-Gos were getting to the rim with their downhill attacks. The five-man crew of Lee/Perry/Banton/Dowtin Jr./Wooten really cranked up the defense, and they went on an 18-0 run to give the Raptors 905 a commanding 63-37 lead.
The Go-Go’s perimeter shooting started to catch fire, as a quick 8-0 run cut the lead to 63-47 with 90 seconds remaining, forcing coach Khoury to call for time. However, the regroup didn’t work, as Dotson’s relentless attack turned that run into a 14-0 spurt to close the gap, with the Raptors hanging on to a 63-53 lead at the half.
The Raptors 905’s defense continued to plummet in the third period, as the Go-Gos got the shots they liked - threes and layups. Banton and Harper Jr. tried to keep them at bay, especially with Carey Jr. looking unstoppable. Coach Khoury immediately went to Perry in place of Kenny Wooten, but some questionable shot selection from Banton allowed the Go-Go to get to within two. The visitors managed to tie the game at 88 off a silly foul by Gabe Brown while being 93ft away from the basket. Luckily, the Raptors 905 got some favourable whistle at the end, which sent Dowtin Jr. to the line to give the Raptors 905 a 90-88 lead entering the final frame.
Dicey fourth period and very ballsy for coach Khoury to roll with a Lee/Gravett/Harper Jr./Wieskamp/Kelley lineup, but Harper Jr. and Lee kept the Raptors 905 afloat. The Go-Go tried to collapse the Raptors 905’s defense by seeking Wieskamp and Kelley in the half-court with mixed success. However, Lee, Harper Jr., and Wieskamp made big-time three-pointers to maintain a slim margin. Wieskamp hits his fourth trifecta to put the 905ers up 107-102 with six minutes left.
Dunn and Carey Jr. continued their relentless attack, tying the game at 114. Still, Banton took over in the clutch, leading an 8-2 closeout run in the last two minutes, not counting Jordan Schakel’s three-pointer at the end, as the game was already decided.
Regular Season Game 06: Old problems resurface as the Raptors 905 ‘s late rally come up short, lose to Go-Go 116-123
Raptors 905: Dalano Banton, Ron Harper Jr., Reggie Perry, Kenny Wooten
Capital City Go-Go: Devon Dotson, Craig Sword, Jules Bernard, Makur Maker, Vernon Carey Jr.
Raptors 905: Ron Harper Jr. (TW), Dalano Banton (NBA)
Capital City Go-Go: Vernon Carey Jr. (NBA), Devon Dotson (TW), Isaiah Todd (NBA)
The Raptors 905 could not stay in front of Capital City Go-Go and keep them away from the rim, and a late rally came up short, splitting their baseball series 116-123.
Reggie Perry tried to put the Raptors 905 behind his back, a yeoman’s effort with a game-high 37 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks. Banton had a decent 24 points and nine assists but struggled with his shot selection in several pockets of the game. Ron Harper Jr. added 22 points, with 11 coming from the first period.
Makur Maker’s career night led the Capital City Go-Go’s attack, but it was the downhill attack of Quenton Jackson (21 points), Devon Dotson (18 points, 7 assists), Kris Dunn (13 points), and Jules Bernard (15 points) were a big problem for the Raptors 905.
The Raptors 905 won the possession battle with eight more shots, despite losing the rebounding battle again (43 vs 37), but the Go-Go made the difference in transition, outscoring the home team 22-10.
Vernon Carey Jr. left the game midway through the third period with what appears to be an ankle injury, and that opened up a lot of minutes for Makur.
The game started with a bit of a downhill attack battle between Go-Go’s Dotson and Banton, but it was the Go-Gos that dealt the first blow, going on a 14-0 run to take a 22-12 lead to force coach Eric Khoury to call a timeout, as he tries to figure out how to minimize the visitor’s paint touches. Unfortunately, the timeout didn’t help, as the Raptors 905’s defense continued to leak everywhere. Vernon Carey Jr.’s having a feast in the paint, while there’s no resistance given to the Go-Go’s dribble penetration.
Ron Harper Jr. tried to keep the home team afloat, but the opposing team’s bench is just as lethal as their starters, with former NBA 5th pick overall Kris Dunn and Quenton Jackson doing damage.
Perry tried to put the team on his back to start the second quarter, but their shoddy defense allowed Go-Go to build an 18-point lead early in the second period. The Raptors 905 upgraded their defense from non-existent to inconsistent but struggled to make ground due to their turnovers and transition defense. A slow but valiant Banton-led 16-10 put the Raptors 905 back in the game, chasing the Go-Go 55-65 entering the half.
Just when you thought the momentum had swung in favour of the Raptors 905, the hosts opened the first 15 seconds of the half by giving up four quick points. Makur Maker hit a corner three, and the Raptors 905 bench picked up a tech. It became a battle of keep-away between these two teams, with the Go-Go threatening to pull away and blow this game out, while the Raptors 905 scrapped to get back into the game. Hassani Gravett’s late push, punctuated by Perry’s layup, finally got the Raptors 905 back within single digits, entering the final frame trailing the Go-Gos 85-94.
BACK WITHIN 2❗️— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) January 11, 2023
REGGIE BLOCK AND DJ MAKE pic.twitter.com/V6HIhbkIP2
Perry shifted into his extra gear in the fourth, leading the comeback attempt with an 11-4 run to cut the lead to 96-98. Maker hit another trifecta, but Perry’s on a mission, powering another run, this time, a 7-3 run to give the Raptors 905 their first lead since the first three minutes of the game, going in front 103-101.
The teams exchanged haymakers, exchanging leads seven times over the next three minutes, with Harper Jr. giving them their last lead at 110-109. The Go-Go relied on Maker’s career night to put the game away on a 10-2 run, putting the Go-Go up 119-112 with 43 seconds left, and that’s game.