The Wolves played Toronto for the first time this season, and it was an entertaining contest to say the least. The game held four lead changes and seven ties in the first half alone, but Minnesota came out on the short end of the 105-100 final score. Kevin Martin led the team with 37 points, followed by Chase Budinger with 19 points and eight rebounds. Rookie Andrew Wiggins added 15 points and three rebounds in his first hometown game.
Minnesota played short-handed once again, dressing only eight players for the third game in a row. Although Ricky Rubio returned to the floor, Justin Hamilton sat out with a severe headache.
The team's shooting proved much better than it has been of late. In the first half, the Wolves shot 48 percent from the field and an impressive 5-of-9 (56 percent) from behind the 3-point line. Things got off to a rather slow start, but they definitely picked up for the Wolves toward the end of the first quarter.
Wiggins got his first bucket midway through the first, and the Raptors pulled away with an early 17-11 lead. A series of excellent ball movement by the Wolves seemed wasted for several minutes when the squad could not get its shots to drop. Martin quickly got rolling however, notching 18 points in the first quarter alone and finishing the half shooting 70 percent from the field.
One word to describe Kevin Martin's first half so far: efficient. He has 22 points on 10 shots (7/10, 4/4 from three) #Twolves— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) March 19, 2015
Adreian Payne and Wiggins got in early foul trouble; Wiggins tallied three fouls in the first half and was limited to a career-low nine minutes between the first two quarters. When Payne grabbed his fourth foul, it was concerning to say the least for the short-handed squad.
Coach Sam Mitchell, who filled in for Flip Saunders, made smart decisions to keep the rotation moving, and Wiggins and Payne were able to finish the game without hitting their foul max. Minnesota upheld its reputation heading into the second half, with a rough start to the third quarter and allowing Toronto to go on an immediate 7-1 run.
The Wolves didn't get their first points until the 8:14 mark, when Gorgui Dieng grabbed a single free throw. A couple minutes later, Budinger came up with a nice bucket in effort to get Minny back in the game. The forward had an impressive game overall, and his energy on offense kept the game close on more than one occasion.
Toronto ran the ball well and mainly controlled the pace of the game, despite finishing with a slightly lower shooting percentage (44) than Minnesota (48). DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 21 points, 12 of which came from the free-throw line, and Jonas Valanciunas added 15. Kyle Lowry, whom the Wolves were most concerned about heading into the game, was held to only nine points and left the game with a back contusion following the third quarter.
Minnesota held its own in the final quarter, and a few times it looked like the eight-man team might pull off a win. However, a crucial error occurred with a Martin miss and subsequent turnover by Rubio. With only 1:27 remaining in the game, the six-point deficit proved too wide for the Wolves to recover from.
Considering the number of injuries the Wolves are dealing with and the talent of the 40-win Toronto squad, Wednesday's game held numerous positives for Wolves fans, despite the loss.
The Timberwolves record fell to 14-53, and they are now tied with New York for the worst record in the NBA.
- Turnovers were a bit of an issue for Minnesota as far as quantity, but the team did a good job at minimizing the damage. Off of 15 turnovers in the first three quarters, the Wolves allowed only six Raptors points.
- Minnesota shot only 66.7 percent from the charity stripe, compared to Toronto's 85.2 percent.
- The Timberwolves outscored the Raptors 54-38 in the paint.
- Martin shot 50 percent from the field and went 5-of-9 from behind the arc.
- Lorenzo Brown had arguable his best night, scoring eight points on 4-of-5 shooting and adding five assists.
Play of the Game
It's a tough call between Zach LaVine's dunk over Terrence Ross and Budinger's underhand layup off a Rubio assist. Since Budinger had an uncharistically great game, however, I have to give the play to him. Rubio dished the ball through a crowd to No. 10 for a nice bucket in the fourth. Here's the play for your viewing pleasure:
How is this even possible. pic.twitter.com/XGO2FFBkHl— MN Timberwolves (@MNTimberwolves) March 19, 2015
Minnesota will travel to New York to take on the Knicks Thursday night. Considering the current standings and time of the season, it's hard to say if the game will be a battle to win or a battle to lose. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CST.