- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (22-24) vs. Toronto Raptors (20-25)
- When: 7:00 PM CST
- Local TV: Bally Sports North Extra (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves +5.5 | Total: 231 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
right back at it.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) January 19, 2023
Wolves vs Raptors
7pm CT, @TargetCenterMN
» @BallySportsNOR EXTRA
Preview » https://t.co/C0WfIUmwG2 pic.twitter.com/aaopSlFbhT
What To Watch For
The Corner 3
So far this season, the Raptors are allowing opponents to take 12.3% of their shot attempts from the corner (last in the league), and opponents are shooting 39.7% on these shots (21st in the league), per Cleaning the Glass. Instead of taking away one of the most efficient shots in the game, the Raptors have been more focused on defending above the break 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers. The Timberwolves can exploit this.
Health is a big determinant here, but players like Austin Rivers (if he plays), Taurean Prince, and Jaden McDaniels could have big scoring nights as they take 39%, 26%, and 20% of their shots from the corner respectively. Not only do they shoot a lot from the corners, but they’ve also been assassins from that area.
On corner threes, Austin Rivers is shooting 50% (90th percentile), Taurean Prince is shooting 49% (89th percentile), and Jaden McDaniels is shooting 40% (63rd percentile). Additionally, even though they shoot a much lower volume from the corner, Anthony Edwards and Kyle Anderson could both find success there as they are shooting 48% (88th percentile) and 41% (65th percentile) respectively.
The Timberwolves haven’t been a good 3-point shooting team this season as their 35.6% mark as a team ranks 20th in the league. If they are patient and work to find good shots in the corner, though, they could see that number take a step up.
Nothing Easy for Ant
With the litany of injuries that the Timberwolves have faced this season, Anthony Edwards has seen his role shift to more on-ball creation. With that, and the natural evolution of a young star’s game, has also come more of a defensive focus. This includes Edwards having to face the opponent’s best perimeter defender and frequent double teams.
So far, the first hurdle hasn’t been much of an issue as getting switches is commonplace in the NBA. That, combined with Edwards’ ability to score in all three levels has allowed him to regularly fill up the box score. That won’t be quite as easy against the Raptors, though. Edwards will see plenty of O.G. Anunoby, one of the league’s better perimeter defenders, as his primary matchup. Even when Edwards gets a switch, it will be onto a player like Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet. Edwards may have a singular advantage over any three of those players, whether it be speed, strength, or size, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be consistently exploiting mismatches. No matter who is on Edwards, he’ll have a tough time.
The second issue, the double teams, has proven to be a bigger concern. The Los Angeles Clippers were the first team to start this trend at high volume. The strategy is simple: send a double every time Edwards touches the ball and make someone else score.
It seems like it is simple enough to beat, but only if the rest of the team is knocking down their shots. In these scenarios, we’ve seen Edwards be far too willing to give up the ball the second the double comes. He shouldn’t be forcing his way into creating something out of nothing, but there are better ways that he can exploit these situations.
Holding the ball for an extra second gives his teammates more space as the defense commits. If he’s able to split the double, now the Timberwolves are in a 5v3 situation. More concerning, though, has been Edwards’ reluctance to even go get the ball. We saw it in the Nuggets game where he became resolute to just stand on the perimeter because he knew the double was inevitably coming, and that he’d be forced to give it up.
By succumbing to this temptation, Edwards takes himself out of the game, stifles the offense, and gives the defense exactly what they want. The Raptors are notorious for running gimmicky defenses that the rest of the league doesn’t touch. It would seem fitting that at the very least they send numerous doubles to Edwards to disrupt the rhythm of the offense.
Defensive Morale Boost
The Timberwolves’ defensive struggles this season have been perplexing. In the halfcourt, they thrive, but they constantly shoot themselves in the foot by allowing offensive rebounds and easy transition offense. The game against the Raptors will either be a significant morale boost or an absolute gut punch.
Simply put, the Raptors don’t have a good offense right now. Their effective field goal percentage of 51 ranks last in the league, and their halfcourt offense ranks 27th with an offensive rating of 92.4, per Cleaning the Glass. If the Timberwolves can slow the game down and rebound, the Raptors shouldn’t pose much of a threat at all.
Unfortunately, the Raptors thrive in the two areas that the Timberwolves have struggled. The Raptors rank fourth in the league in offensive rebounds per game, and they love to play with pace. The Raptors currently rank second with 17.8% of their possessions coming in transition. They also rank second with 1.348 points per play in transition. Whether it is off a miss or a steal, the Raptors will look to run.
- Anthony Edwards — Left Hip Soreness
- Taurean Prince — Left Ankle Sprain
- Rudy Gobert — Right Groin Soreness
- Austin Rivers — Left Knee Contusion
- Jordan McLaughlin — Left Calf Sprain
- Karl-Anthony Towns — Right Calf Strain
- Dalano Banton - Right Hip Pointer
- Otto Porter Jr - Left Foot Surgery