The Raptors 905 entered the Lakeland Magic series knowing the weight of this series. They were in the 6th and final playoff spot, with five games remaining. The Magic are one of the teams that the Raptors 905 are trying to fend off, and with how close the teams are in the middle of the pack, a bad showing can kick them out of the playoff picture.
The Raptors 905 responded, but not what we were hoping for.
The Lakeland Magic came to town with no reinforcements, as Raptors 905 alum Kevon Harris is doing well with the Orlando Magic. Oh, and they were also missing their top scorer, Jay Scrubb.
Did the Raptors 905 take the Magic lightly? Perhaps not, as they missed key players in Christian Koloko, David Johnson, and Ron Harper Jr. in their first matchup. However, it’s still a formidable team with Sterling Brown, Jeff Dowtin Jr., and Joe Wieskamp in the fold. A 124-102 thrashing does not reflect the talent discrepancy between the two teams. If anything, the Raptors 905 had the upper hand in top-level talent.
However, basketball is a team sport, and when a team has enough talent and plays hungrier, and executes better than their opponent, plays disciplined defense, they can slowly chip away and wait for their opportunity to steal the game, which is what happened in the second game, as Zavier Simpson hit a game-winner over Harper Jr., sweeping the Raptors 905 112-111.
The loss bumps the Raptors 905 to 11th place, with two games separating them and the 5th and 6th seeds. With seven teams, all within two games of each other and around 2-3 games remaining for most of them, there’s a lot of math involved and prayers to be answered even if the Raptors 905 goes 4-0 to finish the season. We’ll look into that if they win tonight against the College Park Skyhawks.
Sterling Brown continues to be the Raptors 905’s best player, with his all-around play of 22 points, 5 boards, 5.5 dimes, and 3.5 steals in this series. He also converted 38.5% of his perimeter shots. If not for a bum ankle, perhaps these numbers would be even better. Darryl Morsell had an interesting series against the Magic, as his aggressiveness became a double-edged sword for him. He netted his career-high (21 points) in the first game and showed his two-way game the next as he helped slow down Zavier Simpson, which the Raptors 905 learned to be too difficult.
Joe Wieskamp had a steady 15.5 points on 46.7% from the perimeter, but he disappeared several times in both games. It also didn’t help that the Magic targeted him several times defensively. Ron Harper Jr. played on the backend of the series, posting 11 points, seven boards, and six assists, but his streakiness from the perimeter can’t have worse timing, as he shot 1-for-6 from the perimeter.
Jeff Dowtin Jr. had a decent first game of the series with 21 points on 4-for-6 perimeter shooting but was a non-factor in the second game with four points and seven assists. Perhaps his former team and coach did a better job game planning for him in the second game, but watching the game, it felt like Dowtin Jr. had the long two/middy area available for him if he wanted to. Of course, he had Joel Ayayi shadowing him sometimes, and Ayayi’s one of the better defenders at the NBA G League level. His lack of aggression was uncharacteristic, especially in the fourth on a crucial game. Anyway, off to the games.
Game 28: Lakeland Magic 124, Raptors 905 102
Raptors 905: Joe Wieskamp (NBA), Jeff Dowtin Jr. (2W)
Lakeland Magic: None
With playoff implications on the line, the Raptors 905 no-showed the first game of their baseball series against the Lakeland Magic, getting trounced at home, 124-102.
Jeff Dowtin Jr. poured in 21 points, eight dimes, and three steals while also converting 4-for-6 from behind the arc. Joe Wieskamp splashed four trifectas en route to 18 points for the night. Darryl Morsell added 21 points but had five costly turnovers. Sterling Brown had another all-around game of 17 points, six boards, five dimes, and two steals but only had five points in the second half.
The Raptors 905 were missing a few key pieces, as Christian Koloko was with the main club, while Ron Harper Jr. and David Johnson were out due to injuries. However, it was not an excuse, as the visiting Magic did not have reinforcements and were missing their leading scorer Jay Scrubb.
The smallest player on the floor shredded the Raptors 905’s defense the entire game. Zavier Simpson’s fingerprints were all over the court, putting up 24 points and 11 dimes. Nuni Omot came off the bench with 20 points and six boards, but it was a total team effort for the Magic, who had eight players in double figures. Eight. Yikes.
The Magic took advantage of the Raptors 905’s sloppy play with a 26-16 fastbreak points difference. The home team not only committed several live ball turnovers but failed to get back in early transition often enough, giving the Magic easy basket opportunities.
Coach Khoury’s makeshift starting lineup got off to a slow start, allowing the Magic to jump ahead, but Wieskamp helped the Raptors 905 wake up and smell the coffee. The home team eventually wrestled the lead late in the first, but a disastrous second frame came right after.
The second unit was so horrible, and they started the second half with seven turnovers and 1-for-4 from the field, as the Magic went on a 14-2 run over the first five minutes of the second frame, building a double-digit lead.
It’s unbelievable how the Raptors 905 played the second half with a lack of urgency on both ends of the floor and completely laid an egg in the fourth quarter, despite entering the final frame with just a 12-point deficit. The Magic found success in the fourth, targeting Ryan Hawkins and Joe Wieskamp, whether going downhill or pulling up from the perimeter. Adding salt to the injury, Sterling Brown left early in the fourth with an ankle injury, thus making a comeback improbable without their best player on the floor.
Game 29: Lakeland Magic 112, Raptors 905 111
Raptors 905: Joe Wieskamp (NBA), Ron Harper Jr. (2W), Jeff Dowtin Jr. (2W)
Lakeland Magic: None
What a way to lose. The Raptors 905 led for most of the game, only to choke not only this game but likely their playoff hopes in the last six seconds of the game. Zavier Simpson shook off Darryl Morsell and got Ron Harper Jr. on a switch, pulling up for a well-contested three-pointer for the game-winner, as the Magic swept the Raptors 905, 112-111.
Sterling Brown led all scorers with 27 points, six assists, and five steals while playing on an injured ankle. Darryl Morsell one-upped his career-high the previous game, this time putting forth an excellent two-way game to help slow down Zavier Simpson. Morsell added 17 points and six boards.
Joe Wieskamp chipped in 13 points on 3-for-5 perimeter shooting but was held to only one field goal in the second half. Ron Harper Jr. returned with 11 points, seven boards, six assists, and two blocks. Jeff Dowtin Jr. was uncharacteristically a no-show on a must-win game, posting four points, seven dimes, and three steals. David Johnson provided the spark off the bench running the second unit.
HUSTLE. ENERGY. GRIT.— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) March 18, 2023
WE GOT IT pic.twitter.com/uILGhjJhQF
The Magic’s Zavier Simpson erupted with 10 of his 18 points in the final period, including the dagger that broke everyone’s hearts in attendance. However, it was another total team effort for the Magic, with six players in double figures. Gonzaga legend Joel Ayayi provided excellent playmaking, with Simpson getting hounded by Morsell, putting up a 15/12/11 triple-double.
It’s a disappointing result for the Raptors 905, as they won the possession game, turnovers, points in the paint, second-chance points, and fastbreak points. Despite that, the game came down to the trenches in the last few minutes.
The home team entered the final period with a 94-85 lead, but the Magic wanted this game more. The Magic’s Aleem Ford caught fire to power a 15-6 run to tie the game at 100. Sterling Brown got the momentum back for the Raptors 905, and Harper Jr’s layup capped off a 7-2 run, giving the home team a 107-102 lead with 3:30 remaining.
The rest of the game showed the difference between the two teams regarding discipline, execution, and the will to win. Instead of executing, the Raptors 905 went for the homerun shot, instead bricking four straight perimeter shots. A team without a rim protector just shut down the paint. The team went back and forth with hustle plays, ending with Dowtin Jr. forcing a turnover leading to Hawkins’ putback to give the Raptors 905 a 109-107 lead.
The Magic called for time, and Simpson went for a well-contested baby hook shot over Morsell to tie the game. Sterling Brown muscled his way to the basket to give the Raptors 905 a 111-109 lead with six seconds to go. Magic coach Joe Barrer drew up a hand-off between Aleem Ford and Simpson, forcing Harper Jr. to switch to Simpson, and Simpson heaved over Harper Jr.’s 7’1” wingspan for the win.
The Raptors 905 are back tonight looking to keep their playoff hopes alive against the College Park Skyhawks for their final regular season home game.