MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — There are three games left in the regular season for Raptors 905, and every one of them matters.
The G League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors, the 905 have to beat the College Park Skyhawks at Paramount Find Foods Centre in Mississauga, Ont., and then close the season out with two road wins against the Greensboro Swarm.
Raptors 905 will also need several of their conference rivals to drop at least two of their final three games of the season to get into the sixth and final Eastern playoff berth.
“Oh, we’ve got to be hungry, to refocus,” said 905 guard/forward Sterling Brown after a critical loss to the fifth-place Lakeland Magic on Saturday. “We’ve got another game in a couple days and we’ve got a bigger goal.
“We’ve go to put this game behind us and then on to the next.”
Brown had a career-high 27 points, along with four rebounds, six assists, and a career-high five steals in Saturday’s game against Lakeland, the minor-league affiliate of the Orlando Magic. The 905 led by two points with time winding down, but Lakeland point guard Zavier Simpson drained a three-pointer with one second left on the clock.
After a Raptors 905 timeout, forward Kylor Kelley reached up for an alley-oop dunk, the game-winning points in his hands, but the ball hit the rim and bounced away.
That dropped the 905 to 14-15 on the season, 11th in the East. Lakeland sits fifth at 16-13, with the Capital City Go-Go holding an identical record at sixth.
The top six teams advance to the post-season with the Motor City Cruise, Cleveland Charge, and Fort Wayne Mad Ants sitting seventh through eighth with 16-14 records. College Park is 10th with a 15-14 record and Raptors 905 are 11th, the lowest team not mathematically eliminated from contention.
“I’m a competitor and I want to win, you know? I hate to lose,” said Brown. “But you’ve got to fill your cup back up and get ready for the next game.
“That’s the good thing about this league and the NBA. You’ve got many games back to back, you can’t sulk on one loss for too long. We’ve got three games left to get position in the playoffs.”
Raptors 905 head coach Eric Khoury said that the next three games will be all about execution by his players and staff. He added the G League is as much about developing talent and helping players get to the NBA as winning.
“If we win all three then we can hope the right teams lose and we have a chance but if not, then if not,” said Khoury. “In this league winning is super important, but it’s all about exposure and developing winning habits and playing the right way so you want guys to be putting their best foot forward.”
The Raptors 905 roster includes several prospects who have spent time with the major-league team this season, including guard Jeff Dowtin and forwards Ron Harper Jr. and Joe Wieskamp.
Khoury said having a winning culture on the 905 is integral to those players’ development.
“At the end of the day, you’re trying to develop players into winning basketball players, so if they develop skills that don’t affect winning it’s not very productive,” said Khoury. “The best way to develop winning habits is if everybody’s doing it.
“If everybody’s developing into winning basketball players, you’re going to have a winning product, so they do go hand in hand.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2023.