Trailing 99-90 midway through the 4th quarter, it appeared that the Wolves were out of the game, but a Ricky Rubio three pointer and a couple of Gorgui Dieng three point plays later, the game was tied at 101 and the Raptors appeared rattled. Appearances can be deceiving as we all know, and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan promptly made four straight three pointers surrounding a couple of poor Wolves turnovers to salt the game away for the Raptors in the final two minutes.
Sam Mitchell put Tayshaun Prince back in the starting lineup tonight in place of Zach LaVine as he goes back and forth with his starting group. After LaVine's fine performance Monday against the Celtics, putting him back on the bench is not the choice I would have made, but in thinking about I can understand Mitchell's reasoning. In the first match up against the Raptors, they started Norman Powell, allowing the Wolves to "hide" LaVine on defense to an extent. Tonight, with DeRozan and James Johnson, who is power forward sized, starting on the wing, Mitchell clearly didn't see a match up he was willing to go with for LaVine against that group to start.
It does highlight the fact that the Wolves still struggle defensively on the wing, especially with their young guys. DeRozan torched the Wolves for the 2nd time in as many games, going for 31 and getting Andrew Wiggins in early foul trouble.
Overall it was the defense that was once again the problem for the Wolves. They shot the ball well--50% from the field and 6-10 from three--and made 25 free throws, but could not stop the Raptors from getting what they wanted through most of the game. DeRozan and Cory Joseph were excellent throughout, and Kyle Lowry eventually came alive after a slow start, as the Raps perimeter guys were just too much for the Wolves to handle, something they are going to have consider as we head toward the off-season.
The Wolves problem on offense tonight was turnovers--17 of them, six by Andrew Wiggins alone who had a somewhat odd game I thought. He started hot, was 7-9 in the first half, but went 2-10 in the 2nd half and finished 9-19 with 26 points and the six turnovers. I thought his shot selection was incredibly frustrating at times, as he took a bunch of contested pull ups and turnarounds, and yet his final line looks OK shooting wise. The turnovers were problematic, with several of them coming on extremely sloppy plays and ball-handling errors, yet he finished a +8 on the night.
Gorgui Dieng continues to be an iron man, going over 41 minutes and playing very well--21 points on 8-9 from the field. Unfortunately Karl-Anthony Towns had a relatively poor night with 16 points on 5-13 shooting, and the Wolves bigs could not off-set the perimeter dominance for the Raptors.
It was inevitable that the Raps would start hitting some threes; unfortunately for the Wolves, it didn't wait until their next game. Four of their ten total makes came in the last two minutes, and were the deciding factor tonight.
Next up for the Wolves is a visit to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans on Saturday evening.