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Dial 905: Raptors 905 salvage series split against Texas Legends

Tale of two games: The Raptors 905 played with the all-time worst defense in the front end of the B2B but managed to come back and play with pride to pull off a series split.

Texas Legends v Raptors 905 Photo by Christian Bonin/NBAE via Getty Images

The Raptors 905 hosted the Texas Legends for a back-to-back miniseries earlier this week, and the two games offered contrasting efforts on the defensive end of the floor for the hometown team. The Legends ran them off the court on the first game of their back-to-back after their defense was a no-show and allowed the Legends to get their shots comfortably. The 149 points scored by the Legends was the most allowed by the Raptors 905 in franchise history, breaking the record they set against the Capital City Go-Gos (143) just right before the turn of the calendar. Pride kicked in, and the Raptors 905 returned the following day and played well enough defensively to earn a split against the Legends.

Defense had been a big issue that’s been plaguing the team, for the most part, this season – the defensive intensity, activity, attention to detail, effort, connectivity, and at times – the defensive scheme varied from non-existent, inconsistent and clunky at best for the most part of the season. This is why it’s not surprising to see them finish 4-12 in the Showcase Cup and sit at 2-5.

Everyone’s guilty of not bringing it defensively to some degree, starting from how teams often target Markquis Nowell defensively to the non-Jontay Porter bigs that struggle to defend outside of the basket area and the array of guards and wings who are often out of position or wildly gambling defensively. Heck, including the coaching staff. They need to do better preparing for their opponents. You can’t have a coaching staff thinking about going under screens and being surprised by the three-point barrage by a team that’s made the 3rd most three-pointers during the Showcase Cup part of the season. Also — yes, this includes Gradey Dick, who, despite playing his best game offensively, also registered his worst defensive game against the Legends. He was routinely out of position, kept getting beat by his man, and was always a split-second behind with his reaction. It’s disappointing to see, as this was his 10th game with the Raptors 905. While he’s expectedly subpar defensively as a rookie, it feels like he’s nowhere near trending up defensively, and he shows up with a game like this.

Negativity aside, Nowell’s done a great job orchestrating the offense. What’s impressive is how he set the tone defensively on their rematch against the Legends, playing a complete game as the floor general, perimeter threat, and pesky defender. Nowell averaged a cool 19.5 points, 10 dimes, and 2.5 steals in this series. He also had several quality perimeter looks, hitting 46.7% in 7.5 perimeter attempts. Javon Freeman-Liberty notched a career-high 40 points in a losing effort en route to 30.5 points, six boards, and 5.5 dimes in this series. Gradey Dick only played the front end of this back-to-back, putting up 19 points and going 2-for-3 from the perimeter. Justice Winslow played on the backend of the back-to-back, helping the team in crunch time en route to a 20-point game in a win against the Legends.

Regular Season Game 06: legendary bad habits and matador defense

Final Score: Raptors 905 130, Texas Legends 149

Assignees

Raptors 905: Markquis Nowell (TW), Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW), Gradey Dick (NBA)

Texas Legends: Olivier-Maxence Prosper (NBA), Greg Brown III (TW), Dexter Dennis (TW)

Starters

Raptors 905: Markquis Nowell (TW), Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW), Gradey Dick (NBA), Kevin Obanor, Mo Gueye

Texas Legends: Olivier-Maxence Prosper (NBA), Greg Brown III (TW), Tyler Hall, Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson

The Raptors 905’s defense no-showed the first game of their home miniseries against the Texas Legends, and the visitors walloped them to the tune of 149-130. It was a reasonably competitive game throughout the first half, with the Legends keeping the hosts at arms-length. However, the Legends broke the game open in the second half, and it would have been a blowout game had it not been for Javon Freeman-Liberty’s 40-piece.

The home team was short in the front court, missing Jontay Porter (NBA Assignment) and Makur Maker. Still, the Legends came to town with Greg Brown III, standing at 6’7”, masquerading at C for the visitors. During halftime, Raptors 905’s assistant coach Brandon Leftwich said their defensive strategy is to switch everything and go under screens. Still, the Legends got what they wanted everywhere, as the defensive effort, intensity, and awareness were non-existent for this game.

Javon Freeman-Liberty tried to will his team into the game with no luck but dropped an NBA G League career-high 40 points, five boards, and six dimes. Gradey Dick added 19 points, five boards, and several defensive lowlights for this game. Markquis Nowell notched his sixth double-double with 14 points and 11 dimes, while Kevin Obanor chipped in 19 points.

The Legends destroyed the Raptors 905 from inside and out, led by Dallas Mavericks’ Two-Way Contract player Greg Brown III, who was unstoppable in the paint, leading the Legends with his 30 points and 12 boards. Justin Jackson added 27 points, while Jelly Walker contributed 24 points. The two combined for 10-for-18 behind the arc. Canadian Olivier-Maxence Prosper showcased his well-rounded game with 23 points, seven boards, and three dimes while hitting two trifectas. Raptors old-friend Joe Wieskamp came off the bench and dropped 19 points.

The Legends controlled the paint with 80 points in the paint, outrebounding the hosts (+10) and running away with a +15 in the 2nd chance point category. What makes it worse was the Raptors 905 allowed the Legends to shoot comfortably from the perimeter, hitting 16 trifectas on 41% shooting.

Greg Brown III looked to impose his will early, getting to the basket forcefully for a couple of buckets. Markquis Nowell’s got the offense going early for the Raptors 905, scoring or assisting in all of their first 11 points to keep it close to start the game, including an alley-oop to Gradey Dick. Raptor old friend Joe Wieskamp came off the bench for the Legends and quickly hoisted a trifecta, followed it up with a blow-by dunk over Kevin Obanor a few possessions later, and capped off his stellar first-quarter stint with an and-1. However, Obanor kept the Raptors 905 within striking range, matching Wieskamp’s eight points in the quarter. Unfortunately, the home team’s defense and poor offensive execution allowed the Legends to build a 10-point lead late in the first period, ending the first frame trailing the Legends 32-39.

Legend’s Jelly Walker took over to start the second frame, taking advantage of the Raptors 905’s non-existent defense, scoring eight straight points to give the visitors a 15-point lead. Darryl Morsell’s trifecta got the 905ers on the board in the second frame but could not cut into the lead as the Raptors 905 struggled to contain Brown III. Freeman-Liberty spurred a 7-0 run to bring the lead down to single digits but could not inch any closer due to poor point-of-attack and help defense that can make a traffic cone proud, allowing the Legends to push the lead back to 14. Freeman-Liberty’s 10 points late in the period kept the Legends from pulling away. Still, Brown III made his presence felt again. However, a late flurry from Dick helped the Raptors 905 close the half chasing the Legends, 66-73.

Brown III shreds Gradey to start the 2nd half, but the 905ers tightened up defensively for a bit, cutting the Legends’ lead to six behind the offensive efforts of Freeman-Liberty. Unfortunately, that defensive effort was shortlived, as lapses allowed open perimeter shots and direct paths to the basket over the next few possessions. The Legends built a 16-point lead via O-Max’s fadeaway middy despite Freeman-Liberty’s 13-point outburst this quarter.

Prosper continued his offensive onslaught to start the fourth period, prompting coach Khoury to put Freeman-Liberty back in the game immediately. The Raptors 905 managed to get the lead down to 11 a couple of times, but the Legends got into a rhythm that the hometown team could not consistently defend to make it a game.

Regular Season Game 07: Bouncing back with pride

Final Score: Raptors 905 119, Texas Legends 112

Assignees

Raptors 905: Markquis Nowell (TW), Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW)

Texas Legends: Olivier-Maxence Prosper (NBA), Greg Brown III (TW), Dexter Dennis (TW)

Starters

Raptors 905: Markquis Nowell (TW), Javon Freeman-Liberty (TW), Drake Jeffries, Kevin Obanor, Mo Gueye

Texas Legends: Olivier-Maxence Prosper (NBA), Greg Brown III (TW), Tyler Hall, Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson

After letting the visiting Texas Legends drop almost 150 points on them the other day, the Raptors’ 905 returned with a much better focus on defense. The result? A quality 119-112 win against the very game Legends.

A day after yielding 149 points to the Legends, the Raptors 905 weren’t going to let the Legends embarrass them for the second night in a row. The secret to their success this time? Being in the correct position, at the right time, and with great effort. Markquis Nowell set the tone early for the Raptors 905, picking up full court, extremely active hands looking for deflections, and pushing the ball in transition to convert the opposing team’s turnovers into cherry-picked offense.

Nowell led the Raptors 905 with 25 points, nine dimes, five boards, and four steals. Javon Freeman-Liberty added 21 points, five dimes, and seven boards, while Mo Gueye bounced back with 18 points, 11 boards, and three swats. Justise Winslow returned from injury management to drop 20 points off the bench, including back-to-back-to-back clutch plays.

Jordan “Jelly” Walker led the Legends with 31 points and seven dimes, shooting 5-for-8 from the perimeter. Olivier-Maxence Prosper added 22 points and nine boards. Greg Brown III left the game early, and the Legends missed Brown III’s interior presence on both ends of the floor.

It’s amazing how a change of mindset (and effort) flipped the script on this matchup’s rematch from the previous day. This time, it was the Raptors 905 who dominated the points in the paint (+24), 2nd chance points (+20), and fastbreak points (+9). The Legends started on fire from the perimeter, finishing the first half shooting 13-for-23. However, the Raptors 905 slowed them down from the perimeter, limiting the Legends to 2-for-9 shooting in the second half.

The Raptors 905 opened the game with much better defensive intensity, and it yielded results right away, forcing a couple of turnovers and providing more resistance defensively. The much-improved defense carried them through the initial cold spell to start the game and Olivier-Maxence Prosper’s early onslaught. Greg Brown III exited two minutes into the game. Still, the home team’s ability to score off the Legends’ turnovers helped give them a slight edge in the first frame. Nowell’s two-way play – his playmaking and active, hands-on defense, helped establish the Raptors 905’s offense early, weathering the hot Legends perimeter shooting, who made nine trifectas in the first frame. Justice Winslow came in as the 8th player on coach Khoury’s rotation late in the first and provided a solid two-way contribution. However, the Legends’ torrid perimeter shooting (9-for-13) made it a tight game after one.

Prosper keyed a Legends 12-3 run early in the 2nd period to flip a four-point deficit into a 48-43 lead, but the Legends hit a dry spell, scoreless for 3.5 game time minutes, allowing the Raptors 905 to go on an 11-0 run. The home team took advantage of the Legends’ lack of paint protection with Brown III out, with Mo Gueye, Kevin Obanor, and Omari Moore taking turns to get to the layup line. Legends Justin Jackson’s transition trifecta got them out of their funk, followed by Prosper’s impressive transition dunk. Still, the Raptors 905 switched gears defensively, building a 62-53 lead late in the second period. The Legends’ Jelly Walker’s back-to-back trifectas pulled the Legends within three, but Nowell’s floater at the buzzer gave the Raptors 905 a 66-61 lead at the end of the half.

The Raptors 905 maintained control for most of the third period, this time doing a great job chasing the ball out of the perimeter. Unfortunately, Legends coach Jordan Sears prepared a counter, took advantage of the Raptors 905’s aggressive perimeter defense, and came up with several counters to get his players good looks in the paint. A 9-0 run late in the third tied the game at 80, but a late perimeter barrage from Winslow and Nowell gave them a late eight-point lead before heading into the final frame with a 92-86 lead.

Nowell and the 905ers jumped on the visitors early in the fourth, forcing the Legends to call a timeout after building a 14-point lead a couple of minutes into the period. The Legends hunkered down defensively, and their effort and defensive intensity turned what should have been a blowout game for the Raptors 905 into an ugly, straight-to-do-not-watch basketball TV over the next six minutes. During this stretch, the Legends took the hosts’ offensive rhythm and slowly went on a 16-4 run to cut the 905ers’ lead to 107-106, with around three minutes to go and a chance to take the lead. However, Winslow powered the Raptors 905 with several clutch plays down the stretch – a layup, an assist, and a putback to give the Raptors 905 enough breathing room to put the Legends away.