If we knew it, then the Raptors players and coaches had to know it. If they couldn’t end their 13-game losing streak at home against the Timberwolves, their streak could reach Cavaliers territory.
The Raps came out with a solid offensive first quarter, but their usual lack of defence prevented them from opening up a large lead.
A good sign was that Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan, who have struggled recently, were hot in the first quarter, combining to score Toronto’s first 10 points and 19 of their 33 in the quarter. Minnesota’s five turnovers in the game’s first four minutes and seven in the first quarter also helped the Raptors put up 33 in that first frame.
DeRozan and Bargnani failed to get involved in the offence in the second quarter, and the Raptors’ offence, overall, became sloppy, helping the T-Wolves make a run. The Raps were caught napping for most of the quarter, until a 16-9 run to end the half sent them to the break up four.
The Raptors had their opportunities to extend the lead and really open up the ball game throughout the night, but the T-Wolves found a way to keep it close. Two plays that stick out were the last plays of the first and third quarters. A buzzer-beating Minnesota three at the end of the first quarter was the difference between a five-point Raptors lead and a two-point lead. Later, the Raps looked poised to head into the fourth up eight, before a buzzer-beating tip-in by the Wolves cut it to six. As small as they seem, those five points were a factor in keeping things interesting.
The major factor working to keep the game close was Minnesota’s fury of threes. They made 12 three-pointers on 30 attempts, and seemed to make one every time Toronto started creeping away in the fourth quarter.
What the Raptors did in that fourth quarter though, which they were unable to do in their previous 13 games, was come up with timely stops and make big “response” buckets when they couldn’t stop the Wolves. The final spread of 11 is probably appropriate for how this game went. The Raptors were clearly the better team, but the T-Wolves did just enough to avoid getting embarrassed.
On to the portion of the post where we look at individual performances. Where else to start but Jose Calderon? On a night when he had no true backup point guard, Calderon tied a franchise record (that he already shared with Damon Stoudamire) with 19 assists.
As a team, the Raptors ball movement and willingness to share really stood out, as they racked up an astounding 35 assists on 46 made field goals. Trey Johnson and Julian Wright were commendable in spot-relief of Jose at the point. The other team-stat that leaps off of the page is that the Raptors out-rebounded the league’s best rebounding team.
Amir Johnson continued his solid play by shooting an incredibly efficient 8-of-10 from the field and coming four assists shy of a triple-double. DeRozan used his aforementioned hot start to finish with 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting, though his zero trips to the line for the second straight game might become a concern. The other member of the “Young Onez,” Sonny Weems, probably played his first good game since November. Weems finished with 18 points and shot the ball well, but it was his willingness to move the ball and share the rock instead of taking ill-advised shots that stood out to me.
Bargnani finally broke through with a 30-point game, but you still have to take his game tonight with a grain of salt. Andrea continued to shoot the ball poorly (going 10-of-26 from the field) and ended up jacking up seven three-pointers. He also committed five turnovers. He did seem a little quicker and less hesitant with the ball in his hands, but the numbers beyond his point-total suggest he still isn’t up to full speed.
Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 36 Min, 19 Pts, 8-10 FG, 3-3 FT, 12 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk
Timberwolves Player of the Game: Kevin Love – 37 Min, 20 Pts, 5-11 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 15 Reb, 2 Ast (Love recorded his 35th consecutive double-double and during the ball game, word got out that he will be commissioner Stern’s selection to replace the injured Yao Ming at this year’s All Star game)
Goat of the Game: Michael Beasley – 13 Min, 4 Pts, 2-7 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 TO