Since the calendar turned to 2018, the Raptors 905 have stood as one of the finest teams in the G League. During that time, the team has maintained an 8-2 record, which just puts them behind the Texas Legends who have gone 9-2 during that time span. Although the 905 stumbled out of the gate, this recent run shouldn’t surprise anybody who pays attention to the G League.
Stackhouse still stands as arguably the best coach in the G League and they have a core of players that fits perfectly with his mindset. While they won’t blow you away with their offensive firepower, the 905 have a perfect mix of versatile guards/wings and mobile bigs to help lead the team’s defense-first ideology. The combination has paid off as the 905 have held opponents to a league low 94.8 points per 100 possessions.
As the 905 entered a Wednesday matinee game against the Westchester Knicks, the two teams were just within 1.5 games between each other in the Atlantic Division with the Knicks having that small advantage. However with the 905’s recent success in mind, therace seemed like it could won by either team as we move into the final months of this G League season.
From the tip off through the vast majority of the game, it seemed like the 905 were destined to move even closer in that tight Atlantic Division battle as they entered the 4th quarter with a big 81-78 lead over the Knicks. That advantage was largely due to the stellar play of Raptors two-way player who entered the 4th quarter with 19 points, 9 assists and 11 rebounds. Although Westchester definitely had a strong offensive core, it seemed unlikely that they’d be able to catch up from that significant disadvantage against a great defensive team.
However, the Knicks unit didn’t seem to care about that supposed obstacle as the duo of Billy Garrett and Xavier Rathan-Mayes were firing on all cylinders during that 4th. Garrett was driving to the rim, facilitating and hitting mid-range jumpers. Meanwhile, Rathan-Mayes has maintained the same level of tenacity that he’s shown throughout the year through his work as a distributor and being able to get to the FT line whenever he desires. The contributions of that duo helped push the Knicks to lead the game 99-97 with 22 seconds left.
Despite the Knicks best efforts of being able to lock down the 905, they weren’t able to stop Brown as the veteran guard was still able toscore with relative ease during that quarter. Their inability to lock down the veteran was evident when he was able to nail a step-back jumper over the head of Luke Kornet to tie the game up 99-99 with just 16 seconds left. Although that jumper helped keep the 905 within the game, it left a lot of time for the Knicks offense.
As has been the case since Trey Burke was called up to the NBA, Westchester looked to Xavier Rathan-Mayes to help close the deal. After working around an Isaiah Hicks screen, he moved to his right to try to get some kind of opening against Aaron Best, who was covering him like a snug glove. That defense got the best of Rathan-Mayes as he missed a desperation heave with just four seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately for the 905, that miss clanged off the left side of the rim and landed near Nigel Hayes who was left unguarded on the corner. After collecting the lose ball, Hayes threw up an off-balanced mid-range shot that landed peacefully through the nylon to give Westchester a 101-99 victory.
That exciting finish helped give Westchester just more comfort room in the Atlantic Division as their lead grew to 2.5 games over the 905. Rathan-Mayes led the Knicks with 26 points, 7 assists and 3 steals on 10-21 from the field and 2-6 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Nigel “Mr. Game Winner” Hayes contributed with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals on 8-16 from the field and 3-8 from beyond the arc in his return to Westchester after spending a 10-day stint with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although he didn’t help push them to victory, Lorenzo Brown continues his outstanding season as he had a near triple-double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists on 12-20 from the field and 5-6 from the FT line.