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Raptors 137, Wolves 126: Defense Dooms Wolves in Toronto

The Raps ran the Wolves out of the building.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Let’s start here: Two games for this new iteration of the Wolves, two games worth of fun. They didn’t get the result they wanted tonight, falling to the Raptors in Toronto 137-126. But they hung in the game for 40 plus minutes of a fun, fast paced game, and that’s not nothing. Despite the final score, the game was in doubt well into the fourth quarter when the Raptors went on a crazy run to put things away.

The headline for the Wolves is the debut of D’Angelo Russell. He showed the pros and cons of his game, getting hot early and finishing with 22 points on an efficient 7-12 from the field. But he also turned the ball over six times, including several very sloppy ones that led to Raptors run outs.

It was in large part the Raptors’ transition game that ultimately doomed the Wolves. They never stopped pushing the pace, and the Wolves transition defense just broke down too many times, leading to more than 20 fast-break points for the home team. Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson all benefited from multiple open floor opportunities, and that starting front court combined to shoot an ungodly 32-47 from the field and scored 80 points.

The entire Raptors team was on fire from the start tonight. They made their first eight shots, and finished the first half shooting 66 percent from the field. They finished the night at a robust 57 percent, including 17-33 from three point range. The Wolves simply could not get enough stops to give themselves a real chance to win in the second half.

Meanwhile, the Raptors turned up the defensive intensity significantly after the Wolves hung 75 on them in the first half. They held the Wolves to 19 in the third quarter, and took advantage of Wolves turnovers and some unfortunate missed rebounds to take an 11 poit lead into the fourth. The Wolves got back into it briefly before a barrage from the Raps put things away.

Still, it was another good offensive performance by the Wolves, who made 18 of 40 threes and 30 of 35 free throws. Once again there were a bunch of different offensive contributors for the Wolves, who had five players in double figures and nine with at least eight points in the game tonight.

With as much fire power as they now have, Karl-Anthony Towns seemed a bit lost tonight. He finished with 23 points, but shot only 5-13, and only 2-7 inside the arc. The Raptors defense keyed on him. and he responded once again with some terrific passes (he finished with seven assists), but also had five turnovers and struggled to find space. Given his amazing efficiency, it’s vital that the Wolves don’t forget where their bread is buttered, but it was not a great game for Towns.

The interesting depth the Wolves now feature was once again on display tonight. Jarrett Culver had one of his best games in a few weeks. James Johnson has been a revelation in his first two with the Wolves. He was once again rugged defensively, and made a couple of big threes to keep the Wolves in it in the fourth quarter.

This game reminds us just how far the Wolves have to go, especially defensively, to become a real threat Sometimes the other guys are just better than you.. But this is a much more fun group to watch play basketball, and we’ll certainly enjoy that for the rest of the season. But they must improve on the defensive end, and that’s something we’ll be watching for.

A few notes:

  • Kyle Lowry (21-7-11) and Fred Van Vleet are an impressive back court duo. They really hound opposing guards.
  • Anunoby had a career high 25, not the first, and probably not the last, guy to get a career high against the Wolves.