The Raptors 905 found their post-season fate before they even stepped on the floor against the Greensboro Swarm for their two-game series, as several teams managed to reach the 18-win mark. It was a very slim hope for coach Eric Khoury and his team, as they had to rely on other teams losing just to keep their post-season dream alive.
Of course, much like how their season turned up, it didn’t go as planned.
Coach Khoury carries the unfortunate burden of having the team that snapped their post-season appearance at six. The last time the Raptors 905 didn’t make the playoffs, they started a then-sophomore Bruno Caboclo and Sim Bhullar.
On paper, this team is better than their record. While injuries and player availabilities impacted their record, they dropped several winnable games. Worst, they had games where they “no-showed.” They were just consistently inconsistent, and something would upset the apple cart every time they found their rhythm. Oh, while that previous statement is meant for the Raptors 905, it could also describe the Toronto Raptors this season.
The elimination made the series against the Swarm have no implications, but it doesn’t mean it was a total waste. It was a good time for the other guys to showcase themselves, and make no mistake about it — the games were sloppy, but the players played really hard.
Both teams could have easily picked bodies from the stands, as most of the players were either with the main club or on the injury list. The Swarm had to pick up a couple of players off the free-agent pool for this series just to get to eight players.
Ballparking this, but David Johnson loves to play vs Greensboro Swarm. He prolly has a career average of at least 20pts per game since his rookie season. Has to be his best vs any team. Excellent playmaking, dunks, three-pointers, and buzzer-beaters. He's showcased them all. https://t.co/EnpXBEUHy2— JD Quirante (@jdkeyrants) March 25, 2023
David Johnson was the MVP of this series, averaging 25.5 points, five dimes, and shot 44.4% from behind the arc. His impact was felt everywhere, and he was able to showcase what he could do on both ends of the floor. Sterling Brown and Ron Harper Jr. took turns taking a game off, but not without making an impression, with Brown dropping 28 points (7-for-12 from the perimeter), while Harper Jr. left a 29/9/9 before returning to the main club.
Gabe Brown had a solid stint as a starter, reminiscent of when he was starting for the team during the Showcase Cup. He averaged 20.5 on 44.4% shooting from the perimeter. Newbies Koby McEwen and Keith Williams were able to showcase what they could do. McEwen was at the eye of the storm when the Raptors 905 made their comeback on the second game of their series. At the same time, Williams provided energy and hustle on the floor.
Kylor Kelley showed that he can be productive without Harper Jr.’s helpers, putting up 16 points and ten boards without him en route to 18 points, 10.5 boards, and 1.5 blocks for this series.
There’s not much to say about this series, and we will wrap up the Raptors 905 season later this week as we release their “report card” based on the Showcase Cup and the Regular season. Things might get spicy, so keep an eye on that. Now, on to the games!
Game 31: Raptors 905 116, Greensboro Swarm 118
Raptors 905: Ron Harper Jr. (2W)
Greensboro Swarm: N/A
Ron Harper Jr. came up with another strong performance, leading the Raptors 905 with 29 points, nine boards, nine assists, and three steals. David Johnson bounced back with 22 points and four dimes, while Kylor Kelley and Gabe Brown chipped in 20 points each.
The Raptors 905 had a hard time slowing down Kobi Simmons, who had a game-high of 33 points, seven boards, and seven dimes. Trevon Scott added 24 points and ten boards. Anthony Duruji chipped in 10 points off the bench, including the game-winner corner trifecta.
Coach Khoury had to make do with a decimated roster, with their third stringers Koby McEwen and Keith Williams rounding out the bench rotation along with Ryan Hawkins. Unfortunately, the trio was a non-factor offensively.
The Swarm took advantage of the short-handed Raptors 905 in transition, as they attacked in transition for better or worse, leading to a 25-5 fastbreak point advantage. Despite that, the game was actually a barn-burner on a track meet, with 29 lead changes and no team holding a double-digit lead.
The Swarm suckered the Raptors 905 into a transition battle, and the visitors responded well. Ron harper’s all-around playmaking, putting up 14 points and four assists, along with Gabe Brown’s perimeter shooting, got them a slim margin to finish the first period.
The problem was, the Swarm is comfortable in a sloppy run-and-gun game, and the Raptors 905 aren’t. Kobi Simmons repeatedly shredded the 905’s defense, and the 905 eventually hit a wall offensively in the second period outside of Harper Jr. generated offense.
DAVIDJOHNSONDAVIDJOHNSONDAVIDJOHNSON pic.twitter.com/UmQCarDScr— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) March 25, 2023
Johnson carried the 905 in the fourth, willing his team to a 110-103 lead with about four minutes left, but the Swarm went on an 11-3 run to take a 115-114 lead. Darryl Morsell bullied his way to a layup, earning Xavier Sneed’s sixth foul, giving the Raptors 905 a 116-114 lead with 45 seconds to go. Simmons drove through the baseline and found Duruji for a corner three, giving the Swarm a 117-116 lead with 28 seconds to go.
Coach Khoury called for time and drew up an ISO play for Harper Jr. that got blocked by Duruji. With 22 seconds to go, the Raptors 905 went with Harper Jr. ISO again, and his contested step back three bricked, and McEwen got called for a loose ball foul, sending Simmons to the stripe. Simmons split his freebies, making the back end, leading to another Raptors 905 timeout. The Swarm blew up the ATO that coach Khoury drew up, and the Raptors 905 managed an off-balanced three-point attempt by Gabe Brown that predictably missed, and that was game.
Game 32: Raptors 905 137, Greensboro Swarm 126
Raptors 905: N/A
Greensboro Swarm: N/A
Coach Khoury and the Raptors 905 got some redemption, defeating the Greensboro Swarm 137-126 on the second game of their back-to-back. David Johnson and Sterling Brown combined for 57 points and 12 assists. Sterling Brown led a pivotal 47-point third quarter to wrestle the lead away from the Swarm.
Gabe Brown added 21 points on 4-for-8 three-point shooting, as the Raptors 905 had six players scoring in double figures. Rarely-used third stringers Koby McEwen and Keith Williams had a night, putting up 13 and 18 points, respectively.
The Swarm’s Isaiah Whaley was unstoppable inside the paint, leading the home team with 30 points. Jaylen Sims was cooking all over the floor, contributing 29 points.
Gabe Brown powered the Raptors 905 to an early 11-point lead, but the Swarm went on a run to cut the lead to 28-26 until David Johnson returned from his rest to power an 11-4 run to close the first period with a 39-30 lead.
It looked like fatigue caught up to the Raptors 905 in the second frame as they struggled to put the ball in the basket, and Johnson picking up his third foul early in the quarter did not help. The Swarm’s Jaylen Sims and Kobi Simmons took advantage of the visitors’ futility. They took the momentum away, going on a 25-11 run to give the home team a 63-58 lead at the half.
To make matters worse, Johnson picked up his fourth foul less than ninety seconds into the second half. It looked like the Raptors 905 were about to fade, but Sterling Brown wouldn’t let the Raptors 905 lose, dropping five trifectas en route to a 15-point third quarter. McEwen and Williams’ energy plays allowed them to cut the Swarm’s lead to 88-86 in time for Johnson to appear late in the quarter.
Johnson came back on a mission; he either assisted or scored the Raptors 905’s 12 of their last 19 points, giving them a 105-94 lead at the end of the third period. The visitors got the lead by as much as 16 points several times in the fourth, and the Swarm tried to fight back. However, Johnson always had an answer for them, and he completed his G League sophomore stint with the best game of his professional career.
Up Next: Raptors 905 Report Cards