The Raptors 905 dominated the G League Ignite 127-108 in the first ever matchup between the two teams. The hosts dominated the deflated Las Vegas-based squad in the fourth quarter 34-20 after one of professional basketball’s most exciting prospects, Scoot Henderson, was ejected in the third quarter.
Henderson was ejected after receiving two technical fouls in relatively quick succession in the third quarter. The first was a result of arguing with an official regarding a perceived non-call on a made fast break layup. While retreating on defence a few minutes later, he ran into Jeff Dowtin Jr. with enough force to knock him over, possibly inadvertently. Christian Koloko took exception to the act and confronted Henderson, getting into a minor altercation. Koloko and Henderson were given double technicals, automatically ejecting the 19-year-old from the game.
Henderson was an absolute blur on offence, especially in transition. Though challenging to completely contain, the 905 did well to make it difficult by showing him multiple layers of defenders on drives and meeting him at the rim in timely fashion. The projected second overall pick for the 2023 NBA Draft finished his night with 14 points, seven rebounds, and four assists on four-of-ten shooting.
“I thought the team did a great job of playing team basketball,” said 905 head coach Eric Khoury. “Sometimes when there’s a lot of eyes, guys try going into hero mode and trying to do too much. But the message going into the game was, ‘Nobody’s interested in you going out to try and drop 40, they’re interested in you going out and shutting down your opponent.’”
Dowtin Jr., who had Henderson as his primary assignment, was once again excellent on both ends of the court. In addition to making the game arduous for Henderson, he continued his homestand heater where he’s scored at least 20 points in each of the four games, racking up 25 points on Monday night. He shot 76.9 percent from the field and averages 64 percent for the homestand.
In contrast, the Ignite struggled to generate efficient offence, making just 43.3 percent of their shots and a paltry 26.3 percent from beyond the arc. Putting forward his best effort regardless was Ignite big man Eric Mika who flirted with a triple-double with 20 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists. His size and activity were often the only thing between the 905’s big men and second-chance points.
Scarborough-born and raised Leonard Miller was in the building, playing his first homecoming game in Canada since going pro with the Ignite. The potential 2023 first round pick and 6’10 power forward was the only other big body for head coach Jason Hart’s Ignite. He had 16 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks in the contest. He averages 16.9 points on 52.6 FG% and 78.4 FT%, 10.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 0.6 blocks across 19 games (15 starts).
Ignite guard John Jenkins, the second-oldest player on the team at 31 years old, was seemingly the only Ignite who found his shooting touch on Monday night, making a team-high of two 3-pointers and 10-of-20 field goal attempts. The experienced sharpshooter generated a team-high of 23 points.
The Ignite’s state of affairs weren’t much better on the defensive end, the young team unable to string together stops on the 905 in the first and fourth quarters. Making all the difference in the closing frame was Ron Harper Jr. who made all four of his field goal attempts and scored 12 points in less than 10 minutes. He went an accurate four-of-eight from deep in the game, totaling 22 points despite missing his first four shots and failing to scratch in the first quarter. On the defensive end, he was a ball of energy, and was rewarded in the second quarter with a pick 6.
“It all starts with defence,” said Harper Jr. “I went to Rutgers, and we preached defence ties into offence, so that was an example of that right there, that pick 6. And then I hit my next shot after that. I got myself going on the defensive end and it translated to offence – stuff I’ve been doing for years.”
Koloko found his groove and bounced back from Saturday afternoon’s six-point performance. The Cameroonian made 53.3 percent of his shots for 17 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. The Toronto Raptors 2022 second-round pick has grown noticeably more comfortable around the rim with improved awareness of his defenders, though he’s still working on his game outside of the restricted area.
Sidy Cissoko, a 2022 Nike Hoops Summit standout for the World team (like teammate Leonard Miller), had 11 points and eight assists before fouling out late in the fourth. The French forward struggled to impact the game outside of his playmaking in his 34 minutes, but he’s still young at 18 years old and still has a real shot at being drafted late in the first round of either the 2023 or 2024 drafts.
The 905 have won all four games in the six-game homestand so far. They improve to 13-10 on the regular season, a game behind the third seeded Maine Celtics. The G League Ignite are falling out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference with a 9-15 record that has them in 10th place.
The 905 will next host the Delaware Blue Coats, a top-two team in the East, on March 8. Tip-off will be at 7:30 P.M.
Monday evening’s G League Ignite vs. Raptors 905 box score click HERE.
In a show of support, Leonard Miller’s former Prep School Fort Erie International Academy (FEIA) teammates and students were in attendance as well as friends and family of the NBA prospect. He also was a part of a Q & A with fans post-game which gave his supporters some insight into his on-court goals and off the court interests.
Photos courtesy Amanda Lee Coffey