Mississauga, Ontario – In an exciting affair that saw 23 lead changes the visiting Santa Cruz Warriors toppled the Raptors 905 114-111. Both teams were without significant members of their rosters due to injury and 2-way players – Damion Lee for Santa Cruz and Jordan Loyd for the 905 – playing with their parent team. Additionally, the 905’s other two-way player Chris Boucher recently had his contract picked up by the Toronto Raptors and was unavailable. The story of the night was Malcolm Miller on an assignment from the Raptors after also just receiving a multi-year contract. Malcolm had suffered a serious shoulder injury during last year’s summer league, which had placed NBA career in question. His return to the 905 was thwarted, however, by the Warriors balanced scoring with six of their players reaching double figures.
Both teams started slowly, but it was Santa Cruz that landed the first blow forcing 905 coach Jama Mahalla to call a time out down 15-6. After the time out the Raptors attacked the offensive glass, to the tune of nine in the first quarter, to earn a first quarter tie at 26 – 26. Miller contributed two threes in the last minute of the quarter. His abilities as a solid 3 and D wing were on display throughout the game as he rarely forced the action and knocked down the vast majority of his looks within the flow of the 905 offence. Miller showed his ability to switch defensively all over the court covering penetrating guards like Kendrick Nunn one possession then switching on to bruising 6’7”, 245 pound 2 way contract forward Marcus Derrickson the next. Prior to the game Mahella praised Miller’s versatility on both offence and defense and when queried said that he would not place him in more isolations or in a more ball dominant role as it is “just not him.” He joked that he still might get 30 anyway. Well Miller did not score 30, but his offensive discipline did lead him to 24 points on an efficient 9-of-15 from the field and 5-of-8 from three, along with five rebounds.
The second and third quarter was a back and forth affair. Fans were treated to 22 lead changes and 11 ties before Santa Cruz was eventually able to pull away at the 3-minute mark of the third. This push was powered by Santa Cruz’s super sub Kendrick Nunn who notched 21 points through three quarters. He constantly attacked the 905 downhill both out of the pick and roll and in transition, toggling between getting right to the rim or pulling up from the elbows. He ended the third quarter 10-of-15 from the field on route to a game high 25 points. A few late quarter turnovers by the 905 allowed Santa Cruz to end the third quarter up nine at 93-84.
Down 110 – 101 with 5 minutes to go the Raptors only allowed four more points with a combination of great switching defense and a little luck as some good Warriors looks from three did not fall. Josh Adams, the 905 point guard, figured both for better and worse in the games finale. In the final 2 minutes Adams would cough up some costly unforced turnovers, have the games signature play with a dunk over 6-11” Deytonna Davis (Adams is 6-2”!), get rocked by a Davis screen that led to him conceding the game winning bucket, and miss the tying off balance 3 as the final buzzer sounded. Adam’s tenacity and ability to shake off a bad play has to be admired, he competed and did not shy away from the big moments.
Malcolm Miller proved his worth with the kind of game that pro teams look for from the G League. He showed that he can fit into a specific role – in this case a 3 & D wing – without ball stopping or over dribbling. Malcolm, was content to keep his offense to catch and shoot 3’s, attacking close outs, cuts, and establishing deep post position. He was the kind of low maintenance basketball player that other players enjoy playing with. He joined bench players Jordan Howard, who featured often in 2 point guard sets with Adams and Christian Watford as the only 905 players with positive plus/ minuses. If there was one criticism, it would be that he was not very present in the clutch deferring to Adams rather than being assertive himself.
The win improves G league first place Santa Cruz Warriors to 27-10. Their next opponent is the Stockton Kings who they will play next Wednesday, February 20th. Meanwhile the Raptors 905 drop to 22-15, two games back of the Lakeland Magic in the Eastern Conference. They will next play the Wisconsin Heard on Wednesday, February 20th.