Flynn, Harris have mixed night in Raptors 905 season opener
Raptors 905 opened their 2021 season with an impressive 132-105 victory over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers Wednesday that saw eight different players score double figures.
Strong defensively, the 905 held the Vipers to just 40 per cent shooting, including a 25 per cent mark from deep.
Playing in the same Walt Disney World Resort bubble the NBA used to conclude its campaign last summer, the NBA G League season will be an intense one with the 905 playing 15 games in 25 days before the playoffs — if they make them — begin.
So kicking off the season with a win, particularly one in blowout fashion, was an encouraging early sign for the club.
Here are a few takeaways from the 905’s big win Wednesday.
Plenty of productivity
When you score 132 points — 74 alone coming in the first half — you’re going to see some big offensive nights or, as was the case Wednesday, a large load carried by many different contributors.
905 designated veteran, and Mississauga, Ont., native, Nik Stauskas scored a team-high 19 points while adding seven rebounds and four assists.
It was his first competitive basketball action he saw in a full year, and while he said there were some kinks he still needs to get out, he was pretty pleased with how he played.
“My last game was Feb. 9 in Spain, so it’s been a full year since I’ve played,” Stauskas said after the game. “Definitely a little rusty, some uncharacteristic turnovers, I think. Missed some easy looks from three that I normally knock down. But it just felt good to be back out there on the floor again, playing the game that I love, getting out there and getting a win, most importantly. So overall, felt good.”
Other top performers from the evening included a strong double-double from Toronto Raptors camp invitee Alize Johnson, who had 16 points and 13 rebounds, a 16-point performance from Henry Ellenson — another guy who was in training camp with the Raptors before the season began — and 15 points from Matt Mooney, who scored all of his points off three-pointers and missed just one look from outside on the evening.
Raptors first- and second-round picks from their 2020 draft Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris made their 905 debut Wednesday and, really, got their first real taste of game action outside of pre-season with the big club all season long.
Flynn played 28 minutes, scoring 12 points on pretty dismal-looking 4-for-16 shooting, but he was able to get into the lane nearly at-will over the course of the contest, often leaving lay-ups short, unfortunately, while also finding his teammates open with nice passes contributing to the five dimes he dropped.
“We want to play him,” 905 head coach Patrick Mutombo said of Flynn after the game. “He’s a young player, right? He’s one of the ones that I’ve gotta coach hard, also. You know, good player, has a lot to learn, great competitor, and it’s on us to just keep moulding him into the great professional, great player that we know he can become.”
Regarding Harris, he played 19 minutes and scored 14 points on 3-for-10 shooting.
And despite the poor shooting night, Harris’ natural scoring instincts were apparent as he made a number of sweet-looking moves to free himself up for decent looks.
“I think it was solid, definitely far from my best performance,” Harris said. “But I definitely think I did well individually and I think as a team — I was definitely more proud of the team, as a collective, how we played.”
There was a small scare with Harris as midway through the first quarter he went to flyby contest a three-point shot, but got pump-faked and ended up falling hard and awkwardly, appearing to injure his wrist.
He entered the game again with about a second to spare in the first and when asked about the play, said he was OK.
“When I was in the air — he saw me in the air — I thought he was gonna go the other way,” said Harris. “When I was in the air I was just thinking about how bad it was gonna hurt when I hit the ground. I’m doing alright. I’m not bad.”
Lots of room for improvement
Given the 27-point margin of victory you’d think that Mutombo would’ve been quite pleased with how his team played Wednesday, but it was actually the opposite.
Highlighted by the fact the 905 conceded 18 offensive rebounds. Mutombo said there were a host of issues he believes needs to be cleaned up.
“I thought we had good moments and the guys played hard but there’s just so many things we can do well,” said Mutombo. “Now, I’m sorry that I’m gonna kinda sound like the typical coach, but there’s just so many things that we’ve gotta do better. We want to work on our habits and get to where we want to go individually and collectively. There’s just some things we’ve gotta do better. I’m glad we got the win but there’s a lot of work to do.”
Added Stauskas: “I think there were definitely some bright spots, but I think offensive rebounding, we gave up a lot of them, especially in that first half. I feel like if we fix that up I think we win that game by 40, more than 40 points. That’s something we can definitely clean up. I think our defence was good at times, sticking to our principles, but we’ll go back to the drawing board tomorrow, we’ll watch some film. I think we’ll learn from some of our mistakes and just continue to get better.”
As mentioned before, the 905 have a very condensed schedule this season, so every win matters, and every small way to get better — including nitpicking a big blowout win — will be important for future development.
“There’s a great sense of urgency. We don’t have a lot of time,” said Mutombo. “We’re gonna have five practices total this whole time, so we’ve gotta make sure we have good habits.”