A late comeback spurred by Dalano Banton was enough to power the Raptors 905 to a 112-105 win over the Westchester Knicks on Monday night in Mississauga.
The win marks the third straight for the 905, and moves them to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors were perceived favourites heading into this one with Banton, Yuta Watanabe and Malachi Flynn getting starts, but it wasn’t as easy as many presumed. The first quarter was a back and forth foul-fest that saw the Knicks create good chances on offence, while the 905 forced up what seemed like bad look after bad look. Offensive rebounding kept it close for the Raptors, but the Knicks took a 52-48 lead into the half, and it easily could’ve been a bigger margin. A rough start to the third saw the 905 fall behind by as many as 14, but a late run brought it back to a 5-point deficit heading into the fourth, and that’s where Banton took over. With the help of his teammates, Banton got open looks and found his confidence, draining shots and backing it up with stingy defence. On multiple occasions he scored at one end and then forced a turnover right back the other way, and shifted the entire momentum of the game. For the first time since the jump the Knicks seemed out of it, and some clutch shooting from Watanabe set the game out of reach for an important home win.
“[Coach Mutombo] keeping me accountable goes a long way”, said Banton post-game. “As a group we just wanted to play [in the fourth] with the energy that we know we can play with and that’s what I tried to do as well.”
The aforementioned Banton was Monday night’s first star, scoring 31 points with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Watanabe heated up in the fourth to finish with a 24-point 10-rebound double-double, while Flynn had 13 points and 6 rebounds. Reggie Perry kept the 905 afloat early and finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds, and Justin Smith was a difference maker off the bench with 8 points and 9 boards. Ryerson University alum Aaron Best found his shot from beyond the arc, hitting three 3-pointers for 9 points with 4 assists as well.
Brandon Williams was everywhere for the Knicks in Monday’s loss, scoring a game-high 34 points with 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Former Raptor Dewan Hernandez was a monster all night, scoring 29 along with 12 rebounds for the double-double. Aamir Simms tacked on 12 points with 8 rebounds, and Kethan Savage finished with 10 points and 6 boards.
The three-point shooting was an issue for much of the game, as the Raptors went into the fourth shooting at an 18% clip. They cleaned it up in the final frame by making 7 threes, and it ended up being the difference in the game.
I just wanted to keep teaching them and keep challenging them”, said Coach Mutombo of his players. “I just want to get them to play up to their potential. We just have to get to where it’s the same in the first, second and third quarter [as well].”
The win for the 905 plus a loss for the now 7-2 Motor City Cruise means that the Raptors leapfrog into first in the East at 8-2, and it’s a well-earned accomplishment considering the kind of basketball they’ve been playing. There’s a long way to go, but the Raptors have looked like one of the best teams in the G-League through 10 games.
The 905’s homestand will continue on Wednesday night as they take on the aforementioned Cruise for a heavyweight battle, while the Knicks will travel to play the Capital City Go-Go on the same night.
Banton – 31 PTS 4 REB 4 AST
Watanabe – 24 PTS 10 REB 0 AST
Perry – 14 PTS 9 REB 3 AST
Williams – 34 PTS 9 REB 4 AST
Hernandez – 29 PTS 12 REB 3 AST
Simms – 12 PTS 8 REB 3 AST