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Birmingham Squadron v Raptors 905 Photo by Christian Bonin/NBAE via Getty Images

Dial 905: Raptors 905 earn split against Birmingham Squadron, despite a “Sterling” effort from Brown

The Raptors 905 forced the Birmingham Squadron into submission on the front end of their baseball series, but the Squadron punched back in the second game, leaving Mississauga with the split.

The Raptors 905 and the Birmingham Squadron traded blows during their baseball series last week, but the responses weren’t on the same game. The first game saw the Raptors 905 shift gears in the second half, attacking the boards and making it rain on the perimeter en route to a 110-89 win over the Squadron. The following night, the Squadron came back on a mission, with their zone suffocating the Raptors 905’s offense, and were unstoppable going downhill, leading to a 115-95 win over the Raptors 905.

Sterling Brown was the best 905er during this series, dropping 21.5 points and hitting 69% on 6.5 3PA in the process. He also added 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Christian Koloko managed to put up 14 points, 14 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks. However, he averaged 4.5 turnovers in this series, with eight coming from the front end of the matchup.

Jeff Dowtin Jr. had a pedestrian stat line of 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists while going for 1-for-6 from behind the arc. Ron Harper Jr. added 13.5 points and six rebounds and continued to improve his three-point accuracy, hitting 3-for-6 in two games.

Coach Khoury and the Raptors 905 stayed on-brand with the main club, struggling to fight through the Squadron’s zone defense for the most part. In the first game, Sterling and Gabe Brown provided the firepower from the perimeter, but the team followed it up by going 6-for-28 from the perimeter the next game.

The series against the Squadron had a little bit of flair, as New Orleans Pelican’s 2020 late lottery pick, Kira Lewis Jr., made his NBA G League regular-season debut this year against the Raptors 905. Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri was on site, and Lewis Jr. is a rumoured “throw-in” on any Raptors/Pelicans trade scenarios. Suffice it to say; Lewis Jr. did not impress during this head-to-head, averaging 13 points on 33.3% shooting, including 16.7% from behind the arc. He did manage to put up 5.5 assists and two steals.

Reggie Perry’s Evolving Role

Perry’s numbers are down since Koloko’s addition to the team, and there’s an expected learning curve, and growing pains as their positions overlap quite a bit. However, there are some value-added benefits to this change for Perry. For one, Perry’s not stretched too thin, being the only reliable big on the team. He doesn’t have to worry about foul trouble (down to just 2.3 fouls) as he knows that Koloko’s got his back. Defensively, it allows Perry to showcase his perimeter and off-ball defense, just like the three excellent defensive possessions to start the second half of their first game against the Squadron.

Koloko Watch

We’re starting to get a better feel for Koloko’s game on extended minutes. His presence in the middle sticks out the most, as the opposing teams are very wary of his rim protection. It’s encouraging to see that he can do what Chris Boucher and Pascal Siakam can do — scrambling back from the perimeter to provide rim protection quickly. It’s not perfect, but the awareness and fleet-footedness are there to execute it. Offensively, Koloko’s screens provide excellent spacing value to the ball handlers, as his vertical threat has to be respected. Where he gets in trouble is if he has to finish through traffic or if he has to put the ball on the floor in motion.

Housekeeping Notes

The Raptors 905 waived PG Hassani Gravett before this series after appearing for 18 games in the Showcase Cup and regular season. He’s had a few good games, stepping up admirably, given the minutes. Gravett’s best game as a 905er came against the Sioux Falls Skyforce, where he started at the point, helping prevent a Justin Champagnie revenge game. He tallied 22 points and seven assists, including clutch buckets in ELAM OT.

The Raptors 905 made a few acquisitions with a few open roster spots. They added Jeremiah Tilmon Jr., whose returning rights were acquired when they traded Melvin Frazier Jr. to Westchester Knicks last month. The Raptors 905 also picked up Ta-Deon Hollins from the available player pool. Hollins brings backcourt playmaking depth, while Tilmon Jr. adds size in the front court.

Regular Season Game 10: Raptors 110 Squadron 89

Raptors 905: Jeff Dowtin Jr., David johnson, Christian Koloko, Reggie Perry, Ron Harper Jr.,

Birmingham Squadron: Kira Lewis Jr., Dereon Seabron, Feron Hunt, Kelan Martin, Zylan Cheatham


Raptors 905: Ron Harper Jr. (TW), Jeff Dowtin Jr. (TW), Christian Koloko (NBA)

Birmingham Squadron: Dereon Seaborn (TW), Kira Lewis Jr. (NBA)

Sterling Brown came off the bench to lead the Raptors 905 with 20 points, four rebounds, and six assists. Brown was scorching hot from the perimeter, going for 6-for-7 for this matinee game. Gabe Brown also added 17 points off the bench, including three trifectas. Christian Koloko chipped in 12 points, 14 boards, and four blocked shots. However, Koloko racked up eight turnovers for this game.

Ron Harper Jr. added 13 points, six assists, and three steals. Jeff Dowtin Jr. had a quiet night, and if this were a casino, he would have hit the jackpot with his 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.

Kelan Martin led the way for the visiting Birmingham Squadron, who probably was not prepared for the early tilt. Martin finished with 20 points and four dimes. Kira Lewis Jr., the New Orleans Pelicans’ late lottery pick in 2020, struggled for the most part, finishing with 11 points and four assists. Dereon Seabron, one of the Pelicans’ two-way contract players, finished with 15 points, nine boards, and five dimes.

The Squadron put the Raptors 905’s offence on a litmus test early, opening up an active zone and forcing several turnovers early. However, the 905’s perimeter shooting and Koloko’s screen-setting busted the zone right away.

The Raptors 905 got in trouble early, as the Squadron used a 12-0 run that started late in the first quarter, bleeding through the second. That run gave the Squadron a 33-24 lead, holding the Raptors 905 scoreless for over six minutes. The home team’s futility led to the Squadron’s biggest lead at 40-29, but Harper Jr. keyed a 15-9 run to close the half, punctuated by Koloko’s dunk.

Reggie Perry opened up the second half with excellent defensive possessions leading to a couple of pick-sixes, swinging the momentum back to the home team. Gabe Brown came in and immediately hit back-to-back trifectas, giving the Raptors 905 a 73-65 lead.

The Raptors 905 tightened up the clamps in the fourth, and the Squadron could not handle the barrage from the Browns (Sterling and Gabe), as they built a 106-84 lead with less than three minutes in the game and taking the Squadron’s will to fight.

Regular Season Game 11: Raptors 95, Squadron 115

Raptors 905: Jeff Dowtin Jr., David Johnson, Gabe Brown, Reggie Perry, Christian Koloko

Birmingham Squadron: Kira Lewis Jr., Dereon Seabron, Feron Hunt, Kelan Martin, Zylan Cheatham


Raptors 905: Ron Harper Jr. (TW), Jeff Dowtin Jr. (TW), Christian Koloko (NBA)

Birmingham Squadron: Dereon Seaborn (TW), Kira Lewis Jr. (NBA)

Sterling Brown led the team again with 23 points off the bench. He was the lone bright spot, adding nine rebounds and five dimes. Christian Koloko added 16 points, 14 boards, and five blocks.

Dereon Seaborn led the Squadron with 25 points, six boards, and six dimes. Feron Hunt finally won against the Raptors 905 in four tries, punching in 21 points, seven boards, and four steals. Kira Lewis Jr. added 15 points and seven dimes.

The Squadron’s suffocating defense held the Raptors 905 to 34.8% shooting. They prevented Reggie Perry from establishing his inside game, and their activity stalled whatever half-court offense the Raptors 905 tried.

The Raptors 905 never stood a chance in this game. The Squadron were intent on embarrassing the hosts the entire game, leaking out for easy baskets as often as possible, regardless if it was turnovers or even made baskets. The Squadron outscored the Raptors 905 26-6 in fastbreak points.

The Raptors 905 got into a deep hole early, as they opened the first five minutes of the game going for 1-for-6 from the field while also committing four turnovers, allowing the Squadron to get to a 14-2 lead. Sterling Brown got the home team out of a funk, but the Squadron’s attacks came in waves, and next thing you know, it was a 43-73 deficit for the Raptors 905 early in the third period. Coach Eric Khoury could not find the right combination nor adjustment to establish themselves back offensively, and the Squadron cruised to a 115-95 whipping of the Raptors 905.

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