The Raptors 905 had four players scoring at least 20 points, coasting to a stress-free win against the Wisconsin Herd, 135-126. At least, until the final seconds of the game.
Toronto Raptors’ 2022 second-round pick Christian Koloko made his NBA G League debut, hosting a block party and finished the night with 13 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks. The reigning NBA G League Player of the Week, Reggie Perry, looked comfortable playing alongside Koloko, and led the team with 26 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.
The Raptors 905 have now won three straight games, catapulting them into the playoff mix. They currently sit 8th in the East, one game behind the 5th and 6th seeds. (Note: The NBA G League playoffs consist of the top six teams for each conference instead of eight teams in the NBA).
Jeff Dowtin Jr. was back with the Raptors 905 for this game and provided a steady point guard play. His synergy with David Johnson in the backcourt was beautiful, as they played off each other well. Dowtin Jr. finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. Johnson Added 22 points and eight assists while converting 4-for-6 from behind the arc. Ron Harper Jr. came off the bench to chip in 22 points and three blocked shots while also hitting 4-for8 from deep, including two clutch trifectas late in the game.
Wisconsin Herd’s Jordan Bone filled the stat sheet with a game-high 28 points, 14 assists, six rebounds, and two steals. Paris Bass dropped 13 of his 25 points in the second period. Rob Edwards chipped in 24 points. Raptors 905 old friend Alex Antetokounmpo had five points and two turnovers in 23 minutes before getting tossed out.
The Herd was missing several key players, with AJ Green and Sandro Mamukelashvili with the main club. Canadian Lindell Wigginton also missed the game due to an injury. Jontay Porter, the league’s boards leader at 13.2 rebounds per game, also missed the game due to personal reasons. It would have been nice to see the frontcourt duo of Perry and Koloko battle against Mamu and Porter.
The Raptors 905 shot a whopping 19-for-40 from behind the arc, but that performance is only good enough for a four-way tie for the fifth most 3PM in the franchise history. The record is 23 3PM during the Jordan Loyd/Chris Boucher 905 era.
Regular Season Game 9: Christian Koloko’s block party G League debut!
Raptors 905: Jeff Dowtin Jr., David Johnson, Gabe Brown, Reggie Perry, Christian Koloko
Wisconsin Herd: Jordan Bone, Rob Edwards, Elijah Hughes, Paris Bass, Nate Roberts
Raptors 905: Ron Harper Jr. (TW), Jeff Dowtin Jr. (TW), Christian Koloko (NBA)
Wisconsin Herd: N/A
Koloko made his presence felt right away, swatting away Paris Bass’ layup attempt, leading to Dowtin Jr.’s middy. However, the Raptors 905 failed to capitalize on Johnson’s hot start, scoring 8 of the 905’s 17 points. The Herd took advantage of the Raptors 905’s lack of cohesion defensively, taking a 20-17 lead halfway through the quarter. Dowtin Jr. got the lead back with a pull-up three, but Antetokoumpo answered with his own. The 905ers tightened up their defense in the last 2:30 of the quarter, going on a 12-0 run with the help of a Perry/Darryl Morsell-powered offense to take a 39-32 lead after the first quarter.
Perry opened the second frame with a corner three to give the Raptors 905 a ten-point lead. However, the home team stifled the visitors in the half court, going on a 12-5 run, cutting the Raptors 905’s lead to 47-44, forcing coach Khoury to call for time with just over three minutes into the period. Coach Khoury opted for more spacing, replacing Koloko with Ryan Hawkins. The 905ers responded with a 14-4 run as Dowtin Jr. went to work, pushing the lead to 61-48. Koloko added two more points as Morsell connected with him for an alley-oop dunk. The Raptors 905’s stifling defense finished the quarter strong, going on a 14-7 run as Koloko started to look more comfortable on both ends of the floor. The visitors took a 77-55 lead at the half.
David Johnson’s magnificent game picked up where he left off to start the second half, as his drive and dish got Koloko an easy slam. Unfortunately, that was the only score between both teams after more than three minutes. Both teams combined for twelve straight bricks, and coach Khoury could not stand it anymore, quickly calling for time. Khoury drew up a nice ATO play — a Koloko post up, with Perry cutting right down the middle. Koloko made a nice pass, and Perry should have gotten an and-1. Harper’s five quick points gave the Raptors 905 their biggest lead at 86-57.
This guy Jeff man... SO TOUGH pic.twitter.com/M3ZsoYEm5x— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) January 22, 2023
It took until around the seven minute-mark before the Herd got their first field goal of the quarter off Bass’ layup. That layup sparked a 12-2 run to cut the Raptors 905’s lead to 19, prompting coach Khoury to call for a timeout. Bone drew a shooting foul from Harper Jr. Dowtin Jr. and Iverson Molinar took turns beating each other to the basket. Bass, the Herd’s only functional big got thrown out, and with a 93-73 lead, this should be easy-peasy for the Raptors 905 from this point on, right? The Herd went 2-3 zone to close out the quarter, and Elijah Hughes fuelled a 16-10 run to cut the Raptors 905 lead to 103-89 heading into the final quarter.
The Herd’s zone defense slowed down the Raptors 905’s offense just enough to make them work for their half-court offense. Still, their aggressive attacks to the basket, combined with an excellent drive-and-kick game plan, complemented by their unselfish swing passes around the perimeter, got the visitors guessing defensively. The Herd managed to cut the Raptors 905’s lead to 113-103, prompting coach Khoury to call for time.
Dowtin Jr. fell into the Herd’s surprise full-court trap, coughing up a pick-six, with the momentum swinging to the home team. Perry responded with an and-1, but Herd’s coach Allen challenged the call to no avail. Perry found Johnson for a corner three a few possessions later to push the lead to 13. The feisty small-ball team won’t quit, cutting the lead to nine points with six minutes remaining.
Perry earned a tech for demonstratively signalling to the ref that he got fouled on his jumper (it looked like he got fouled), and that didn’t get a call. Coach Khoury took advantage of the dead ball to insert Koloko back. The Raptors 905 surrendered yet another offensive rebound, leading to a wide-open corner three by Bone to cut the lead to 122-115 with less than four minutes left.
The Herd took the Raptors 905 deep in the clock and was about to force a shot clock violation, but the tipped ball landed on Harper Jr.’s hands, and he swished a trifecta as the shot clock expired. Heck, he might have been fouled there. The Herd got yet another offensive rebound, and Bone found his way to the basket, with both bigs outside the paint. Koloko made a nice cut along the baseline, but Dowtin Jr’s pass was too low (the lob was right there), and Edwards turned it into a pick-six to cut the Raptors 905’s lead to 125-119 with 2:30 remaining.
Koloko found Harper Jr. for an above-the-break three, but missed. Herd’s Edwards blew by Koloko from the perimeter, and Koloko was forced to foul, and the freebies cut the Raptors 905’s lead to four. The Herd stymied Raptors 905’s offense in the half-court again, but Harper Jr. came to the rescue with another trifecta as the shot clock expired, pushing the lead to 128-121 with 65 seconds to go. Bone answered back with his own trifecta over Koloko’s outstretched hands, and it was again a four-point game with less than a minute to go.
The Herd came back, trapping the ball aggressively, and coach Khoury had to call for time. Khoury drew up a nice play for Perry to muscle his way in from the low block, and they extended their lead to 130-124 with 36 seconds remaining. Edwards missed a corner three as Koloko made a fly-by contest that should make Chris Boucher proud. The Herd sent Dowtin Jr. to the line, and the Herd called for time, down 132-124 with 21 seconds left.
It was not a dramatic ending that anyone would have thought of, as the game was halted for several minutes for a good ol’ hold-me-back moment between Harper Jr. and Antetokounmpo.
It looks like Harper Jr shoved Antetokounmpo a bit, but the shove doesn’t justify the exaggerated flop by Antetokounmpo. He quickly shoulder-checked Harper Jr. from behind, decking him, which is even dirtier and more dangerous than Harper Jr.’s shove. Harper Jr. flopped back up and wanted all that smoke from Antetokounmpo, who instinctively went into a southpaw fighting stance.
My biggest takeaway from this brouhaha is perhaps Alex Antetokounmpo is shooting with the wrong hand. Maybe if he switches to his natural hand, he would make more than six points per game to justify the all-star push by the Wisconsin Herd. I mean, come on, this is just a terrible Nepotism practice. Techs were called, Antetokounmpo got to enjoy the cheese curd a few seconds earlier, the Raptors 905 made their freebies, and that’s game.
Koloko Scouting Report
Koloko’s debut started off shaky — perhaps because of the nerves and the lack of familiarity given the new teammates to play with. He made an impression early, blocking Paris Bass’ layup less than a minute into the game. Perhaps Koloko wasn’t familiar with the scouting report, but he gave up a few perimeter shots to the Herd. Coach Khoury allowed Koloko to soak up as many switches with the Herd’s shifty guards, and they took advantage of him in the midrange. Timing could also be an issue, as his “drop” looks like half a step lower, and the reaction to get up was a split second late.
In the second half, Koloko had a nice post-up D on Bass, allowing Perry to help and block the shot. Bass wanted more, and he got blocked by Koloko without jumping. Koloko had a couple of good defensive plays around the perimeter. One was a good stunt-and-recover to contest Bass’ corner three, and the other was an excellent three-point fly-by contest.
Koloko had issues identifying his rotation assignment, especially once the Herd went small-ball. However, what’s a little bit disappointing is his inability to grab boards against smaller opponents, often getting outmuscled by a couple of undersized guards boxing him out. Expectedly, Koloko had difficulty keeping up with shiftier guards when they decided to put the ball on the floor and turn the corner.
Koloko wasn’t much of a factor in the half-court for most of the first half. Jeff Dowtin Jr. hit him on a roll for a dunk, his first bucket as a 905er, but he could not establish himself consistently as a roll man. However, he managed to get an alley-oop dunk from Darryl Morsell. Koloko went 1/2 from the first half, missing his first shot in the corner and cashing in at the top of the key. The most intriguing part of his offense in the first half is his potential in the post. There was a play where Koloko got the ball in the post and found Perry cutting to the basket. Perry got fouled, but that’s good awareness and reaction to the cut. Another post up at the same spot, Koloko faced up and hit a clean middy.
In the second half, David Johnson found Koloko under the basket for a quick-gather dunk, which is encouraging. He also made the same post-up move and found Perry cutting for a layup. However, Koloko was bringing little on the offensive end as soon as the Herd went zone defense for most of the second half, so he barely saw action in the fourth. The spacing against the zone was terrible, with him and Perry on the floor.
It was a decent debut for Koloko. Cobwebs aside, the lack of familiarity hurt his performance in this game. His teammates need to get used to giving high vertical passes down low. When the Herd went into the zone, spacing was an issue between Koloko and Perry. Still, the duo has budding chemistry on the offensive end. He needs to get used to the quicker guard-dominated G-League level, which is alright. However, Koloko would need to showcase better effort on the boards on both ends of the floor, as he’ll have a size advantage every night.