The Raptors 905 defeat the Austin Spurs to win their sixth game in a row

On the last day of 2017, the Austin Spurs and the Raptors 905 met for the first and only time this season at the Hersey Centre in Mississauga.

The first quarter was played at a fun pace and the Spurs got off to a fast start to lead 22-19 after one quarter behind 5 points from each of Darrun Hilliard and Jaron Blossomgame. Canadian Olivier Hanlan got off to a rough start behind some hometown fans, going 0-3 to start the game.  Bruno Caboclo and Lorenzo Brown paced the 905 with six points apiece.  Unfortunately things went downhill for both the Spurs, and the entertaining pace of the game, from there.

The second quarter started positively with the Spurs with some nice defence from Blossomgame (who is in an intriguing player – more on this below) and strong offence from Hilliard.  Then the whistles started… just over 4 minutes into the second quarter the 905 were in the penalty.  Matt Costello and Hanlan both picked up threes fouls and only played 10:34 and 13:32, respectively, in the first half. Hanlan would have had even less time on the court if he didn’t have to sub back in after Jeff Ledbetter picked up his second technical of the game – both on questionable double technical calls (more on this below as well).  After 24 minutes, the 905 lead the Spurs 45-40 with Brown continuing his strong play with 12 points on 6-8 shooting.

A lay-up by Hilliard to start the third quarter rolled out and that was the beginning of the end for the Spurs. An airball from three by Blossomgame followed shortly thereafter.  Two minutes later, the 905 were up by 10 and the game was starting to get away from the Spurs.  Perhaps the most interesting part of the third quarter was a Coaches Challenge by Jerry Stackhouse after a shot contest by the 905 was called a foul – on review, the play was overturned and ruled a missed shot attempt. Despite being stuck in the mud for most the quarter, the Spurs were still within striking distance as the 905 lead 67-55.  Brown continued to lead the way for the 905 with 17 points and 8 asset for the 905 while Blossomgae has 14 for the Spurs.

Alas, the Spurs could not get anything going in the court an the 905 extended their lead to finish with a 93-78 victory and their sixth straight win.  Brown fished with 23 points, 9 assists and 8 boards for the 905 while Blossomgame finished as the Spurs leading scorer with 18 points.

Following the Spurs in the 6 “3on3” format for NBA G-League game recaps this season, here’s my take on what happened both “on the court” and “off the court”.

On the court

  1. Blossomgame: Blossomgame is already looking more comfortable on the court compared to when I last saw him play at Summer League in Las Vegas.  He had some nice takes and a couple of thunderous dunks.  He has the athletic ability and the strength to be an NBA player – it will be interesting to see how the rest of his game rounds into play. It is not out of the realm of possibilities to have another Spurs late draft pick (second round in the case of the Blossomgame) make the NBA.
  2. Coaches challenge: We all know the NBA experience with various rule tweaks at the G League.  During the month of November, each game had four referees (which could have been useful today, just saying) and today I witnessed the Coaches Challenge first hand when the challenge by Stackhouse of a Raptors shootings foul was successful overturned.  Under the Coach’s Challenge rule each team has one opportunity each game to challenge a four call, goaltending/basket interference or out-of-bounds play. If the challenge is unsuccessful, the team losses a timeout (which must be called to challenge the call in the first instance.  It was interesting to see this rule in action.  Although the challenge by Stackhouse was made during the middle of the third quarter, it overturned a shooting foul a time both teams were struggling to score and kept the momentum in the 905’s favour.  My guess is that this a rule that we might see a the NBA level in the future (I looking at you Russel Westbrook and Giannis Antetokounmpo).
  3. Double Technicals: Much to my chagrin, Austin Spurs fan favourite Jeff Ledbetter was ejected in the third quarter after picking up his second technical foul – both of which he received as part of double technical calls.  While I will always have sympathy for the referees – it’s a very hard job and certainly not something I would want to do – you would never see something like this (a player getting ejected as the result of two double technical calls) at the NBA level. Hopefully this provides a learning opportunity for the referees as I was robbed of watching the #WinterofJeff play.

Off the court

  1. Fila: During pre-game shoot-around Stachhouse was wearing an official Nike Raptors 905 shirt and black FILA pants – which had me wondering if they were left over from his playing days.
  2. Questions, questions, questions: After watching the Austin Spurs live for the first time this season I have lots of questions for my friends over on Spurs on Sixth. Can Hilliard do more than just score?  What do you think Blossomgame’s ceiling is?  Will Costello see time at the NBA level?  What will Amida Brimah be able to do with his incredible length? Can Hanlan develop into an NBA player?
  3. Touchdown: Much like football out pattern that Danny Green and Tim Duncan used to run during pregame warmups, the Austin Spurs had there own version with Ledbetter making the reception of a Nick Johnson pass.  I smiled (and then remember how much I miss Timmy).

Post game quote

Great note to finish the 2017 year on. 

Coach Stackhouse on the Raptors 905 sixth win in a row

We tell them there are two things you can alway control, attitude and effort. 

Coach Ahearn on what you can control on the court