- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (35-36) vs Toronto Raptors (34-36)
- When: 6:10 PM CT
- TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves +10 | Total: 223.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
time to bounce back.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 18, 2023
Wolves at Raptors
6pm CT, Scotiabank Arena
Preview » https://t.co/iirtmIltdi pic.twitter.com/07zHUR8zPc
- Anthony Edwards — Right Ankle Sprain
- Rudy Gobert — Left Ankle Sprain
- Naz Reid — Left Calf Soreness
- Austin Rivers — Back Spasms
- Jaylen Nowell — Left Knee Tendinopathy
- Karl-Anthony Towns — Right Calf Strain
- Christian Koloko — Nose Fracture
- Dalano Banton — Left Thumb Sprain
- Otto Porter Jr. — Left Foot Surgery
What to Watch For
Anthony Edwards’ Health
Perhaps the only thing the Timberwolves had going for them in a season mired by injuries was Anthony Edwards’ every-night-availability and generally clean bill of health. Most Wolves’ fans hopes for this season were not a show of belief in the team but rather in Edwards himself. And with the throw of a jump pass and an awkward landing, all of that has gone up in smoke.
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Our good friend Chris Hine of the Star Tribune reported this morning that Edwards’ questionable designation for tonight’s game is “a good sign moving forward,” and that he hears Edwards “will likely have more testing done Sunday.”
That, combined with the Wolves being a whopping +10 for tonight’s contest and the team recalling Matt Ryan from the Iowa Wolves, tells me that Edwards is not going to play tonight. Even if he did, Minnesota would be swimming against the current after Jaden McDaniels (45), Mike Conley (46) and Kyle Anderson (51!) all played north of 45 minutes last night.
Hopefully we’ll hear more tomorrow, but it’ll sure be difficult to see both Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns in street clothes. Those two were incredible down the stretch of last season, and, simply put, it sucks they’ve been robbed of making another regular season stretch run together. Of course, they can still make one in the playoffs if they get right, but the outlook is grim, and the Play-In Tournament feels like an inevitability.
Can Rudy Gobert Will the Timberwolves to a Win?
The “good” news there is that Rudy Gobert played a normal minutes allotment (33) because he fouled out in overtime, so he should be ready to go after a dominant 21-point, 19-rebound, five-block performance over a Chicago Bulls team with little interior presence on the defensive end.
Tonight, he’ll face a Raptors squad anchored by Jakob Poeltl, whom Gobert has largely dominated over the course of his career. Entering this season, Gobert held averages of 15.7 points on 60.5 shooting, 13.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 14 games vs Poeltl, in which he is a combined +100. As a Wolf, Gobert hasn’t found the same success, but he played Poeltl’s San Antonio Spurs team three times in the first three weeks of the season, so he wasn’t fully optimized — and didn’t have Conley as his point guard.
Gobert will need to put up damn near another 20/20 night while dominating the paint defensively if the Wolves want to hang around. It’s highly unlikely that Conley and McDaniels will come close to combining to score 53 points and shoot 12/21 (57%) from 3 again tonight, so Gobert will need to take care of business with highly replicable offense — crashing the offensive glass and throwing down dunks. Taking care of the ball is crucial, too, given that Toronto scores 18.5% of its points off turnovers, the highest rate in the NBA.
On the other end of the floor, he’ll need to contain a Raptors team that scores 46.2% of its points in the paint, 11th in the NBA, and is third in offensive rebound rate (31.6%). Head Coach Nick Nurse’s group likes to play below the arc, as they don’t really have any marksmen in the rotation. O.G. Anunoby (37.7%) and Gary Trent Jr. (36.7%) are the only two rotation players that are above the league average of 36.1% from deep.
Another Big Opportunity for the Bench
The Raptors bench is one of the worst in the entire league. Outside of Trent Jr., Toronto has no viable scoring options and no reserve has played well, so Head Coach Chris Finch’s second unit will need to dominate those minutes.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker and especially Naz Reid were essential in Minnesota building a lead late in the third quarter of last night’s game, and both scored in double figures, while Jordan McLaughlin went 2⁄3 from deep and added four dimes. It’ll be a bounce-back opportunity for Taurean Prince, who basically lost the Wolves the game with his costly, inexplicable turnover inside of 20 seconds left in overtime when Minnesota had the ball with a two-point lead after a huge block from Reid.
Minnesota’s bench out-scored Chicago’s reserves 38-19, and now faces a Raptors bench that scores the second-fewest points per game (27.6) in the NBA. The Timberwolves’ bench will have fresher legs than their starters will, so coming out of the gates with energy and intensity on both ends of the floor will help keep Minnesota within striking distance against a team that has been a below average fourth quarter team by net rating all year.