(Mississauga, On) The shorthanded Raptors 905 dropped a game with heavy playoff implications against the Lakeland Magic, falling 124-102. Magic point guard Zavier Simpson sliced and diced the 905’s softened defence, punishing mismatches and finding teammates barrelling through open lanes. Simpson double-doubled with 20 points and 10 assists. He averages the third-most assists per game in the NBA G League, only behind Memphis’s Jacob Gilyard and Fort Wayne’s David Stockton.

The Toronto Raptors recalled Christian Koloko and Dalano Banton, and the 905 were also without Ron Harper Jr. and David Johnson. The shortened rotation and lack of available options presented head coach Eric Khoury and his squad with a tricky dilemma. Play a big like Jeremiah Tilmon or Kylor Kelley, and they became vulnerable to threes and bad mismatches. Go small, and they lacked the size to protect the rim and fight on the glass. They were outrebounded 45-37 and the Magic made 15-of-33 (45.5 percent) of their threes. 

The Magic’s recently acquired forward, Nuni Omot, came off the bench and had the best game of his NBA G League career. The 6’9” forward is long with decent shooting touch, so he presented challenges for a 905 team that elected to go small for large swaths of the game. He had a career-high 20 points on 50 percent shooting and grabbed six rebounds (all offensive) in just his sixth game with the Magic. He spent the majority of the season with the Westchester Knicks.

The Raptors 6’5” guard out of Marquette, Darryl Morsell, had also enjoyed a career game. He came off the bench and scored a career-high 21 points to go with five rebounds and two steals, but he also committed five turnovers.

“As a team, we got to clean up a lot of stuff – turnovers in particular,” said Morsell after the loss. “I led the team in turnovers. Even though I played well, I turned the ball over way too much… Taking care of the ball and securing [rebounds]. That’s the most important thing.”

Despite Morsell’s big performance, Lakeland’s bench outscored the 905’s bench 79-39. The newly acquired Riley LaChance had a season-high 16 points. Aleem Ford, a 19-time starter for the Magic this season, came off the bench Thursday afternoon and put up 15 points.

Before going down to a lower body injury early in the fourth quarter, Sterling Brown did the heavy lifting for the 905 offence in the matinee game (12pm start time). Without several key players in the rotation, Brown’s ability to handle the rock, push the pace, and make plays for his teammates was at a premium. As usual, he finished with a well-rounded line of 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two steals in 32 minutes.

Jeff Dowtin Jr. has grown into a positive constant in head coach Eric Khoury’s rotations, reliably finding ways to score and making plays for his teammates game after game. He went eight-of-14 from the field for 21 points, four 3-pointers, and eight assists in the loss.

Joe Wieskamp, the 6’6” swingman out of Iowa, had 18 points on a team-high 18 shots and made four from deep.

The two teams began the day with identical 14-13 records. The 905 now sit in ninth place with a .500 record and have just four games remaining in the season, including a meeting each with the Magic and the Skyhawks. They must surpass the 15-14 Motor City Cruise, 14-13 College Park Skyhawks, and 15-13 Windy City Bulls to reach the playoffs. They must also fend off fellow 14-14 teams in the Cleveland Charge and Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

“We lost any margin for error,” said Khoury. “We’re going to have to play perfect basketball from here on out, and that was the message in the locker room after the game.”

The 905 have a home rematch with the Magic on Saturday, March 18 at 2:00 P.M. ET. 

Thursday afternoon’s Lakeland Magic vs. Raptors 905 box score HERE.

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