It has been a decade since the last time the Timberwolves won a game at the Air Canada Centre as the Raptors took them down for the tenth time in a row on home court 94-89. In a more current context, this was Toronto’s sixth consecutive home win as the Raptors have started protecting home court with a vengeance in the post-Rudy Gay era.
Minnesota never led in the game and Toronto led by double-digits in the mid-part of each quarter, but the Raptors could never completely put this game out of reach until the end and that should not come as a surprise. The Timberwolves were the second highest scoring team in the NBA coming into tonight’s game at 107.1 points per game and number 2 ranked at offensive rebounding, so putting up points in a hurry is something they are good at. However, Toronto held them to under 90 points and the only other teams to do that this season were the Pacers, HEAT and Spurs.
Amir Johnson opened the scoring for Toronto as if to remind everyone just how much he has enjoyed playing against Minnesota at the Air Canada Centre. Over the past 4 seasons, Johnson has scored 19 points against the Timberwolves each time he has faced Kevin Love at home. At the other end of the court, while Love is not someone that can be kept completely off the scoreboard, Johnson has done a good job defending this 25.6 point per game scorer. The last time Love was in Toronto, he scored 13 points on 3-16 shooting. In Friday night’s game, Love was held to just 16 points on 7-19 from the field. After 3 quiet games in a row, apparently all Johnson needed was a little Love.
“We wanted to redeem ourselves for that Boston game,” Johnson said. “Come out, get stops, get every rebound and we did that tonight.”
The Raptors stayed within 1 rebound of the Timberwolves, 44-43 and perhaps more importantly matched them with 12 offensive boards as Toronto controlled the pace and limited Minnesota’s typical big advantage on the glass.
Jonas Valanciunas struggled scoring against the bigger Nikola Pekovic, but he fought his way to a team high 11 rebounds. The undersized Chuck Hayes came in off the bench to grab a season-high 9 rebounds in just over 19 minutes. Love had a dozen boards and Turiaf came in to pull down 10, but the battle of the boards was even between the 2 teams.
While Johnson was quietly pouring in points against the Timberwolves big men, the fireworks were coming from the long range bombs being hoisted with deadly accuracy by Kyle Lowry. Lowry led all scorers with 24 points as he filled the net with a season-high 6 three-pointers.
“(Lowry) is playing at a high level,” Casey said. “This is the highest level he has played – the best I think he has played. I think he has grown into that role of leader. He has matured as a man – fatherhood – husband – has really matured him. He has been a positive leader. He is doing all the right things.”
“(Lowry) has always played at a high level, but he is shooting the ball really well,” Head Coach Rick Adelman said. “A lot better than at any time from the three-point line, from the floor and from the free throw line, so that’s a big difference, but he has always been a really solid player.”
The Raptors hit 11 three-point shots to just 3 by Minnesota as Toronto used the long range jump shot to offset a 26 point disadvantage in the paint.
Kevin Martin led the Timberwolves with 18 points on 7-14 from the field and Pekovic shot 6-12 for 13 points.
In 11th place and 3 games under .500, the Timberwolves’ season seems to be slipping away, but Adelman doesn’t see things that way as the team returns home to play Utah on Saturday.
“You can’t look at it that way,” Adelman said. “You have to keep playing. You just have to move on to the next game. We played hard tonight and Kyle (Lowry) made some big shots. You can’t think that way. You have to think about the next game and getting the win.”
With the win, the Raptors moved a half game ahead of the Hawks for sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference. Toronto plays the Lakers next on Sunday.
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