With the Raptors 905’s 98-94 win on Monday against the Iowa Energy, the 905 have now won two straight, also defeating Jimmer Fredette led Westchester Knicks, winning 107-94.
These back-to-back wins come after nine straight losses.
Nine straight losses is obviously not a pretty sight, even in a league that is all about development; however, in losses, teams learn things and the 905 might have done so.
The result of the lessons learned during their 9-game losing streak, may be the reason for their current two-game win streak, which has a chance to extend. Many 905 fans, media, and pundits saw three major areas of concern in the 905 team --- turnovers, defense, and ability to sustain intensity for a full 48 minutes. In both games, the 905 have definitely improved in a couple of those categories. This would lead a lot of fans of the north side to believe that the 905 are definitely turning over a new leaf. It may sound ridiculous, but, take a look at the numbers in the last two games.
Perhaps the biggest turnaround for the Raptors 905 club is defense. While the 905 were not the worst defensively, the club on the season was abysmal when it came to interior defense.
The Raptors 905 opponents average 104.8 points per game, which was 13th in the league, the concerning part is they allow a lot of easy shots. The 905 for the season have allowed teams to shoot 50.4% from 2-point range against them. One of the reasons for this is that the 905’s interior defense was lacking.
On the season, they allowed opponents to shoot 63% from five feet or less, which was last in the league. The 905 needed better defense, especially given the fact they don't score a whole lot of points by D-League standards, only 100.2 points per game (ppg).
Scoring for the Raptors 905 would actually be more of a concern, if there was actually a correlation between scoring and wins. Need an example? The Sioux Falls Skyforce have the best record in the NBA D-League. The Skyforce only score 102.3 points per game which is 10th in the league, while being 1st in points allowed per game, only allowing 94.0. In basketball defense still wins championships no matter the league and the 905 do not play defense well.
During their "baby streak", the 905 have been stingy defensively, Only allowing 94.0 ppg (looks familiar), and holding teams to 41 % from the field. but it gets better.
While 3-point defense has actually been a bit of a bright spot, the 905 in the last two games held teams to an average of 21 % from the land beyond. Those two teams had Jimmer Fredette (Knicks) and James Ennis (Energy) respectively on them.
Looking at turnovers, the 905 were bit better at taking care of the ball but more importantly they are better at keeping the ‘turnover battle’ close.
Look, it is no secret that the 905 are notoriously bad at turning the ball over. Their 19.1 turnovers per game average is worst in the league. Up until the last two games the 905 were -117 in turnover differential (303-420). That means that the 905 had a turnover differential of -5.08 per game.
The Raptors 905 won the turnover battle against the Knicks 14-12 and tied the turnover battle against the energy at 18. That now lowers their turnover differential to -4.6.
In my experience, by complete random, certain quarters the 905 looked like a top five team in the league and in certain quarters the 905 looked like a completely different team. This is what has made the 905 entertaining and intriguing, but also very concerning. It is one thing to lack consistency between games but it is puzzling to lack consistency between quarters.
Fortunately the 905 have solved that problem. Now one knows exactly when the shift from good to bad starts. In the last two games, the North Side from quarters one to three look like world beaters, but in fourth quarter completely unravel and do just enough to maintain their three quarters of work.
Against the Westchester Knicks won the first three quarters 89- 67, but lost the fourth quarter 27-18. Perhaps the most egregious example of the 905’s fourth quarter woes was against the Iowa Energy. The 905 won the first three quarters 80-63 but lost in the fourth quarter 31-18. This has been a noticeable trend about the Raptors 905 since the D-League showcase, thus, it will be interesting to see if the North Side can fix this problem.