Wolves vs Raptors
Minnesota enters play tonight on a losing streak once again, but with an opportunity to earn an impressive win in front of their home crowd. Yeah, Kawhi Leonard is gone, but the defending champion Toronto Raptors are still damn good.
While Minnesota catches a break with Fred Van Vleet sidelined, this is still a Raptors squad that will run them out of the building if they don’t come out ready to play.
Kyle Lowry has long been one of the most under-appreciated guards in the league, seemingly the PG version of Al Horford. The counting stats aren’t eye-popping, but he routinely is one of the most impactful players in the league due to his prowess as a floor-general, his long-range shooting, and his world-class defense. As a fan of good basketball, I’m looking forward to seeing Lowry this evening, although he’s likely to make life miserable for the Wolves.
The Pascal Siakam story is a well-chronicled one, so I won’t spend too much time on it, but it’s worth repeating just how remarkably good he is. He’s not Kawhi, but he has replaced much of what Kawhi left. For example, in 2018-19, Kawhi averaged 26.6/7.3/3.3 on .606 TS%. This season, Spicy P is posting a nightly line of 24.2/7.6/3.6 on .553 TS%. Again, he’s not quite Kawhi, but the production is pretty close.
Lastly on the Raptors end, you can’t really talk about them without mentioning how good Masai Ujiri is at his job. How Terrence Davis managed to go undrafted is beyond me, but he’s one of the best handful of rookies in the entire NBA. Their scouting department is second-to-none, and it keeps them competitive even after losing one of the three best players in the world.
The matchup to watch tonight is pretty easy for me — it has to be Karl-Anthony Towns against Marc Gasol. In the past, Gasol has given Towns fits. Now, that was primarily in Memphis, and during those games KAT was instructed to be more glued to the block than he is now. Maybe he’ll find better success by bombing away from deep and looking to drive from the perimeter, similar to how he found success against Rudy Gobert earlier in the season. It’s not safe to assume much though, as Gasol has long been one of the best and smartest defenders in the league.
I’ll be interested to see how Jarrett Culver handles tonight’s action. Toronto has some really good, long defenders on the wing so it’ll be intriguing to see how Culver matches up with that. He’s been really good when attacking the rim recently, and it’d be nice to see him continue that.
Lastly, Allen Crabbe may actually make his debut tonight, which would bring a much needed injection of shooting to this lineup. There are plenty of variables at play with Crabbe, and he’s still questionable to play tonight, but in theory he should help balance out the roster a bit.