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Wolves at Raptors: Bouncing Back

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After a dispiriting setback in Atlanta, the Wolves look to shift the tide in a star-studded matchup in Toronto.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

When the Timberwolves matched up against the Toronto Raptors just 10 days ago at Target Center, a victory felt like a longshot. Both teams had obstacles to overcome: the Raptors were visiting Minneapolis on the second night of a back-to-back having defeated the Spurs the night before.

Meanwhile, it was the Wolves first game without Jimmy Butler since early in the season when they were defeated handily in two consecutive matchups with their all-star wing sidelined. Nevertheless, the Wolves snuck out a victory against the high powered Raptors behind 29 points, five rebounds and three assists from Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins, a Toronto native, will look to impress his friends and family in the arena with another dominating performance against his hometown team tonight.

But the rolls are reversed entering Tuesday’s tilt. This time it's the Wolves that will come in with heavy legs having suffered a demoralizing defeat to the Atlanta Hawks last night. The Raptors, on the other hand, are coming off of a 123-111 victory over the Lakers on Sunday at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors boast a superstar back court of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, surrounded by a talented group of young players like OG Anunoby, Jakob Poetl and Fred Van Fleet.

The Wolves will need improved point guard play if they want to give themselves a shot at beating the Raptors in their second consecutive contest. Monday’s matchup against the Hawks was the worst performance we’ve seen from Jeff Teague all season. Teague scored just two points on 1-12 from the floor and 0-2 from beyond the arc. The former Hawk did manage to dole out 10 assists and create four steals, but the story of his game boiled down to poor decision making and untimely turnovers down the stretch.

Overshadowed by Teague’s blunders was the fact that Tyus Jones had a similarly poor outing. The third year point guard ended the game scoreless on 0-4 from the field and 0-2 from three. Beyond that, he managed just one assist and was a -10 in only 13 minutes of action. It is vital for the Wolves long term success that they see more production from the point guard position. That is unavoidable against a team like Toronto.

The Raptors sport one of the league’s most intimidating backcourts, a tandem that has garnered six all-star game appearances to date. If the Wolves hope to counter Kyle Lowry, who scored 40 points on 25 field goal attempts in their last matchup in Minneapolis, they will need 48 minutes of effective play from Teague and Jones.

What to watch for

The Raptors are one of two teams in the NBA that currently hold both a top 5 offensive rating and a top 5 defensive rating. The other is the Golden State Warriors. On any given night they have the talent to either run their challenger out of the gym or to make it nearly impossible for them to score. Their balance of offense and defense mean it is immensely difficult for an opponent to sustain a meaningful run. If the Wolves want to win this game, they can’t dig themselves into a hole because the Raptors are too good for them to be able to dig out.

Toronto is excellent at defending the mid-range. According to CleaningTheGlass.com, opponents are shooting 37.3% on those shots, the fifth to worst mark in the league. The Wolves take the third highest proportion of shots in the NBA from the mid-range (44.4%) so the Raptors will push the likes of Taj Gibson, Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins to shoot 10-20 foot jumpers and then close out hard when they do. If the Wolves settle too often, they’ll be playing right into the hands of the Raptors. Look for them to be aggressive in driving to the basket.

Expected lineups

Raptors

Kyle Lowry
DeMar DeRozan
O.G. Anunoby
Serge Ibaka
Jonas Valanciunas

Wolves

Jeff Teague
Jimmy Butler
Andrew Wiggins
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns