Game 30: Raptors 905 111, College Park Skyhawks 104
Raptors 905: Ron Harper Jr. (2W)
College Park Skyhawks: Donovan Williams (2W)
With their playoff hopes fading, the Raptors 905 finally played like their backs were against the wall. Ron Harper Jr. came up big, putting his team on his back to stun the College Park Skyhawks, 111-104.
The Raptors 905 played without Dalano Banton (thumb), Christian Koloko (Nurse’s dog house), Jeff Dowtin Jr. (ankle), Joe Wieskamp (hamstring), and starting big Jeremiah Tillmon (illness). The injury report and how Sterling Brown and David Johnson struggled felt like this team was ready to raise the white flag and call it a season, but this ragtag crew played together and competed for every possession.
Ron Harper Jr. had the best game of his professional career with 30 points, 11 assists, ten boards, and two steals. He was head and shoulders better than anyone on the floor as he channelled his vintage Rutgers Scarlet Knights self, carrying the offense the entire game.
30 PTS 11 AST 10 REB— NBA G League (@nbagleague) March 22, 2023
Ron Harper Jr. dropped his first career TRIPLE-DOUBLE as the @Raptors905 picked up a huge win over the Skyhawks to keep their #NBAGLeaguePlayoffs dreams alive! pic.twitter.com/GXYzFYY5mA
It’s good to see Harper Jr. on a high-usage rate, as he was able to showcase his complete game. He was not reliant on settling for perimeter shots, despite hitting 2-for-5 from the perimeter tonight. He was getting it done off the ball, in transition, and going old-school, bullying his way to the basket. With David Johnson and Sterling Brown struggling mightily, Harper Jr. provided coach Eric Khoury an engine for their anemic offense, and he delivered. Most of their best possessions in this game happened when it’s all about “give Harper Jr. the ball and get out of his way” possessions.
Harper Jr.’s contribution wasn’t limited to scoring, as he was able to break down the Skyhawks’ defense, and find his teammates inside and out, with Kylor Kelley as his main recipient, with lob after lob. Kelley finished with 14 points, nine boards, and three blocks, providing the much-needed two-way production needed at the centre position. Our buddy Joseph Strauss was in attendance, and got to ask Harper Jr. about Kelley’s impact:
.@__RHJR gives Kylor Kelley his for his play as of late and how he’s helped Ron’s game pic.twitter.com/ULBInYAuj2— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) March 22, 2023
Sterling Brown toughed out a bum ankle, which he aggravated at the end of the first half, leading to him missing the start of the second half. He struggled for most of the game but turned it up late in the fourth period, helping Harper Jr. seal the game.
The Raptors 905’s third stringers came up big for coach Khoury, as the seldom-used new-ish 905ers Tra-Deon Hollins, Keith Williams, and Koby McEwen combined for 27 points, with quite a few of them coming in when the team needed to fend off the Skyhawks’ rally.
Skyhawks’ Langston Gallaway torched the Raptors 905 again with 31 points, including 8-for-16 from the perimeter. NBA G League vet Cat Barber started hot, pouring in 10 of his 19 points in the first period. Tyrese Martin chipped in 15 points, but his efficiency is probably worse than his trash-talk game. Raptors old-friend Armoni Brooks felt at home in Canada, struggling from the perimeter with 1-for-7 shooting, but managed to put up 11 points.
The Raptors 905 won almost every category that mattered to them, dominating the point and second-chance points and, more importantly, holding the Skyhawks to 38.8% shooting, only the third time they held a team under 40% this regular season.
Starting Five ✍️ pic.twitter.com/RVJN8ya647— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) March 21, 2023
The game started a little wobbly for the Raptors 905, as they struggled to score out of the gate. However, the ragtag starting unit of David Johnson, Sterling Brown, Morsell, Harper Jr., Kylor Kelley rewarded coach Khoury with an excellent defensive effort. Except for figuring out how to slow Cat Barber’s forays to the basket (5-for-7 FG in the first period), the Raptors 905 held the rest of the Skyhawks to 3-for-16 shooting in the first frame.
HAWK SIGHTING @RyanHawkins8 pic.twitter.com/ZNrRr9rYbf— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) March 21, 2023
Johnson was trying to force the issue a bit in the first half, while Sterling Brown’s shots weren’t dropping, combining for 1-for-10 in the first half. Morsell provided the spark early in the first period, but Ryan Hawkins came off the bench scorching hot, hitting four trifectas in the first half. Harper Jr. came back late in the first period to anchor the transition lineup, and that’s when the Raptors 905’s offense started to gravitate more toward Harper Jr.
Sterling Brown re-aggravated his ankle in the dying seconds of the first half as Harper Jr. beats the buzzer with a long two because that’s what he does, giving the Raptors 905 a 57-50 lead at the half.
Sterling Brown re-aggravated his injured ankle before the end of the half, and the Raptors 905 had to play 4-on-5... scratch that, it's just Ron Harper Jr. vs 5 pic.twitter.com/Ay0AzhEBx6— JD Quirante (@jdkeyrants) March 23, 2023
Gabe Brown started the second half in place of Sterling, putting Harper Jr. as the engine of their half-court offense. Skyhawks’ Langston Galloway started to catch fire, cutting the lead to a single possession, but Scarlet Knights Harper Jr. was in full effect. That was the story for most of the second half. Every time the Skyhawks threatened to make it a tight-buttcheeks game, Harper Jr. was there to respond.
Kelley and Hawkins did a great job protecting the paint the entire game, but the wings did a great job applying pressure everywhere on the floor. They crashed the boards, helped/covered up for the bigs to provide rim protection, provided enough pressure at the point of attack, and contested perimeter shots for the most part. While they did manage to score 19 fastbreak points, the Raptors 905 did not have to rely on forcing turnovers to play sound defensively.
This win kept the playoff hopes alive, for now. The Raptors 905 travel to Greensboro, NC, to finish off their regular season with a baseball series against the Greensboro Swarm, who are already out of the playoff picture.
The Raptors 905 needs a near miracle to make the playoffs. Quickest elimination is if at least 3 teams reach the 18-win mark. It gets interesting if only 1 or 2 make it, & the 905 sweeps GBO. Then the multi-team tiebreaker kicks in, & hopefully it's vs teams where they did well. pic.twitter.com/TaZdVur0qL— JD Quirante (@jdkeyrants) March 22, 2023
The Capital City GoGo (17-13), Motor City Cruise (17-14), and Windy City Bulls (17-14) currently occupy the 4th-6th seeds, while the Cleveland Charge, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and Lakeland Magic are all tied with a 16-14 record. The Raptors 905’s playoff hopes rely on them sweeping their next two games and limiting the number of teams hitting the 17 and 18-win mark. Or they could be eliminated by Friday. We’ll see, but for now, this game is one of the best Raptors 905 games of the season.