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Raptors 97, Wolves 94: Wolves Back... in Time

The Timberwolves were back in action and despite three triple-doubles, they fell apart late due to issues that plagued them a year ago.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

The Start Ant Here We Go

After 183 days, the Minnesota Timberwolves were finally back on the court. Even the news of freshly re-signed Jaden McDaniels being out for the season opener against the Toronto Raptors wasn’t enough to dampen the mood for fans.

The Wolves were officially back.

It wasn’t a clean start out of the blocks for Minnesota though, as they turned the ball over and allowed offensive rebounds. Wolves fans around the world were left on their feet, desperately waiting for the first made field goal as over three minutes of game time ticked away. Then came a pair of Anthony Edwards (26/14) free throws. Then came an Anthony Edwards three-pointer. Another three-pointer. Then an Anthony Edwards fadeaway mid-ranger. In a blink of an eye, Edwards had 10 straight points and put the Wolves back on top.

The 22-year-old must have inspired his teammates. During Karl-Anthony Towns (19/10/3/4 blocks) second stint, he chipped in seven straight points of his own. Things looked like they were straightened back out.

The Meat Choppy Waters in Toronto

After a bit of a rocky start where both teams shot under 37% from the field, the second quarter was much of the same. It was one of those games where there were a lot of whistles where there shouldn’t have been, and a lot of no-calls when there should have been. Though Minnesota got into the penalty just 3.5 minutes into the second quarter, the Wolves began hunting for fouls instead of finishing possessions. This led to a screeching halt on the offensive end, allowing for the Raptors to get out in transition and to the line. A 15-4 Toronto run put them ahead by seven as things looked particularly rickety for the visitors. Scottie Barnes (17/8/5/7 stocks) was particularly impressive during this stretch with his grab-and-go ability.

It really felt more like a game of red light, green light with the amount of starting and stopping. Even the Raptors weren’t able to hang onto their lead, as the Wolves slowly clawed back thanks to same late shot making by Edwards.

Things sped up to start the second half. Mostly for Toronto, as they kept shoving the ball down Minnesota’s throats in transition. They enjoyed a significant advantage in fast break points, as the Wolves struggled to get back on defense after misses. If the cart looked rickety in the second period when they were down seven, then smoke was coming from out the hood, as first-year NBA coach Darko Rajaković engineered a 10-point Raptors lead. Much like the end of the previous quarter, Chris Finch got his team to battle back. The bench to responded with big-time plays on both ends of the court. Throughout the entire comeback was the presence of Rudy Gobert (15/13/6 stocks), who was super active all night, was very noticeable. His 13 rebounds helped the Wolves win the rebounding battle 62-47. Some way, some how, Minnesota led by one heading into the final period.

The Finish KA(N)T Get It To Go

Despite all the work the bench did to get the Wolves back ahead, much of it was undone by Towns who looked out of control on both ends. Bally Sports North commentator, Jim Peterson, lambasted Towns for his defensive miscues coupled by his poor offensive decision-making. There were critical plays that resurrected Minnesota’s chances at a victory, highlighted by a sneaky layup on a baseline out of bounds play with 0.6 on the shot clock and a pair of Shake Milton stops.

Right on cue, Toronto would respond. A pair of triples by Pascal Siakam (15/7/6) and his new starting point guard, Dennis Schröder (22/3/7) was quickly capped off by another Siakam three-ball that rebuilt a sizeable lead. Both Edwards and Towns missed a number of wide open shot attempts which encapsulated their offensive inefficiencies for the game. They combined to go 16 of 52 (!) from the field. Minnesota had one more gasp of air, down just 91-95 with 34.7 seconds remaining, but Towns tried to jam an ill-advised entry pass into a covered Gobert. The final turnover sealed the Wolves 19th loss in a row in Toronto.

Was this October 2022?

It felt like we were suddenly transported back to a day where the “Twin City Towers” didn’t know how to play together. In fact, this was hardly the first missed connection between the two this game. Towns team-high four turnovers was an issue, and even more so when considering how wide open he was when he inexplicably threw the ball away. There’s absolutely zero room for moral victories this season, but it’s hard to imagine how the Wolves walked away with just a three point loss. Consider the following:

  1. Minnesota shot 34.0% from the field (25.8% from perimeter).
  2. Toronto scored 34 fast break points (Compared to 12).

These issues will hopefully be quickly addressed by Finch before they face the Miami HEAT on Saturday. It’s concerning considering how much he put an emphasis on transition defense this offseason, but the shooting should hardly ever be this poor. Will Towns, a recent three point champion, shoot 2/10 on mostly open attempts again?

Let’s hope not.

Game Highlights

Lead Tracker

Lead tracker via NBA Courtside

Canis Hoopus Comment of the Night

I could think of another CH member that this comment should be directed at.

What’s Next

The Wolves won’t have a happy flight back to the states where they’ll have two days to prepare for the Miami HEAT on Saturday 10/18 at 7:00pm CT. Their home opener will be against our dear friend, Billie Joe Armstrong General Soreness. Hopefully the crowd can will their team to a better effort as they look to go 1-0 (in America).