Though the Raptors continue to impress now that they’re back home from a Western Conference trip, the G League affiliates have been struggling to start their year. This week, the team went 0-3 in a home-and-home with Maine and on the road in Wisconsin, dropping them to 0-4 on the season.
Second half execution has been a major reason behind the losses, as big quarter differentials in all three games (-15 in the 4th at Wisconsin, -8 in the 3rd at Maine, -10 in the 3rd vs. Maine) have set them back. The other is simply bodies on the floor — with injuries to Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby this past week, Dewan Hernandez and Oshae Brissett spent different games out of the 905 locker room during road trips.
There’s still a lot to like offensively from the 905, though — even as coach Jama Mahlalela attempts to put a lid on the other teams and set up better defence. The G Leaguers aren’t quite on the same string that the NBA guys are at the moment.
Let’s look back at the games and memorable performances in this week’s Dial 905.
Friday, November 15 at Wisconsin Herd
The bodies present played a pretty darn close game, however, the 905’s poor outside shooting hurt them overall. The team was 10-for-38 on threes, contrasted with 12-for-33 on the Herd side. 905 bench players Jawun Evans, Paul White, and Nicholas Baer went a combined 0-for-9 from distance.
Considering this, two words kept the 905 alive: Devin Robinson. The affiliate player started at centre and dropped 40 points on 23 shots, also grabbing seven rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Even in a matchup against former lottery pick Dragan Bender, Robinson looked superior — running the court well, making a few highlight blocks, and ensuring the 905’s transition possessions ended in points.
The thin 905 team couldn’t support much, though. Dressing just eight players, Tyler Ennis managed 21 points and 13 assists, but with just ten points from three bench players, the Raptors just ended up out-manned.
Sunday, November 17 at Maine Red Claws
Red Claws 129
Once again, consider the difference in bodies when you consider the final score. Maine dressed 12 players in this home game, getting a significant bench contribution from enormous 7’5” man Tacko Fall with 21 points (+19). The 905? Again, only eight players, though this time they had Oshae Brissett with the team to provide a bit of a boost.
The 905 starters got off to another good start in this one, and had balanced scoring throughout. Fresno State product Paul Watson had 30 points on a blazing 11-for-15 shooting to lead all scorers.
Devin Robinson added 28 points and ten rebounds, albeit on a less efficient 12-for-30 line. Brissett had 16 points and shot just 5-for-15.
Again, the third quarter was the issue, as the 905 gave up runs of 11-3 and 10-0 to allow Maine a double-digit lead. Threes from Watson and Brissett would temper the growing blowout, but the Red Claws were able to cruise in the fourth to get the win.
Maine shot 52% from the field and 40% from three as a team, and were led by 26 points from Kaiser Gates.
Wednesday, November 20 vs. Maine Red Claws
Red Claws 113
Back home and facing Maine again, the 905 enjoyed the return of Malcolm Miller and Dewan Hernandez from the Raptors. Still, though, the Raptors couldn’t dial in their long distance shooting and second half defence — as a team, they made just 7-for-29 from distance, and gave up 60 points to the Red Claws after halftime.
The bright spot on this day was Tyler Ennis, who pointed out after the game that this was the best he’d felt since returning to basketball action after a long-term injury. Dropping 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting tells that story, as Ennis also added 12 assists, five rebounds, and three steals to boast a quality fantasy line (if such a thing existed).
Unfortunately, support for Ennis was lacking in this one. Robinson and Miller both had lines of 5-for-11, while Hernandez had 13 points but was a -13 in his time on the floor. Brissett chipped in 15 points but missed all five of his three-point attempts.
The 905 also struggled with the presence of Tacko Fall in this one, as the enormous man dropped 21 points on 17 shots. It still wasn’t the high line for Maine, though, as Tremont Waters had 24.
The sense from this week? The 905 have their work cut out for them on the defensive end, and finishing games as strong as they start them. There’s also a lack of quality shooting on this team that’s been present in years past. And — as such things go — when the Raptors get healthy, the 905 will get stronger. Playing games on the road without affiliates creates rosters thin on talent. Hopefully that will get better as the season goes on.