The Toronto Raptors lost 101 to 89 to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night in a game of two halves where Head Coach Dwane Casey took a hard look at Dwight Buycks after the break and a peak at Julyan Stone, Carlos Morais, Austin Daye and Chris Wright. After all, these games don’t count and Casey has players he needs to have a look at before the season starts.
For the Raptors, the game started out with the same level of sloppy turnovers they were playing with in Boston and the result was a 28-22 Minnesota lead after one quarter. They went into Jonas Valanciunas on the block against Nikola Pekovic on the first play of the game and Valanciunas drew the foul, but this was a matchup of different but equal centers. Pekovic scored 4 quick points when Valanciunas went to the bench midway through the first quarter, but quickly found things more challenging again when Casey substituted Valanciunas back in less than 3 minutes later. This was a good preseason matchup for both players to work on their respective games. Valanciunas played well, finishing with 9 points and 5 rebounds. Pekovic should be pleased with how he was able to impact the game as well.
Toronto got control of their turnovers in the second quarter and outscored Minnesota 37-27 to take a 59-55 lead into the half. The Raptors starters came out to start the third quarter, but halfway through, with the game 71-68 Raptors, Tyler Hansbrough replaced Valanciunas, Landry Fields replaced Rudy Gay, the rookie Dwight Buycks replaced Kyle Lowry, and a minute later Terrence Ross replaced DeMar DeRozan. Love didn’t exit the game for another 4.5 minutes and scored his final 6 points. Minnesota had an 8 point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
DeMar DeRozan was a bright spot for the Raptors all game and had 5 first quarter points by attacking the paint, a theme he continued for the rest of the game. DeRozan was drawing fouls, driving through traffic and finishing. Minnesota had no answer for him. DeRozan had 8 second quarter points and finished the game with 17 points on 6-7 shooting and 5-6 from the line. One of many DeRozan highlights was his finish of a Rudy Gay alley-oop pass that looked like it might have been too high, but wasn’t.
Steve Novak came into the game in the second quarter and quickly hit on 3-4 three-point attempts before half. The Raptors three-point specialist looked like he was in mid-season form. Novak is ready to play for real now. D.J. Augustin, who played badly on Monday against Boston, was under control and looked like the solid backup point guard the Raptors thought they were getting. Augustin hooked up Novak for two wide open three-point shots early in the second quarter and hit on one of his own in between.
Rudy Gay was 1-5 from the field in the first half, but 7-7 from the free throw line as he was deceptively effective. Gay guarded Kevin Love on the perimeter for while in the second quarter as the Raptors went small and slowed down an otherwise big night for the Timberwolves star power forward. A noticeably trimmed down Love had 20 points and 9 rebounds on 6-14 shooting.
Rookie point guard Dwight Buycks got a long hard look for 17 minutes in the second half and the Timberwolves took advantage. Buycks was a -13 on the game as he couldn’t handle the veteran J.J. Barea at all and the Raptors were not able to contain dribble penetration with Buycks on the court. It didn’t help that Terrence Ross looked lost on defense for most of this game as well. Both players had their moments. Buycks set up Ross for a wide open three-pointer on a drive and kick. Ross did have a well executed driving layup, but the bad outweighed the good for both players. The long range air-ball Ross tossed up with 11 seconds left on the shot clock should get some discussion in the morning.
Landry Fields looked like the player of last season. Four missed layups and 1-6 shooting, Fields actually turned down a possible layup attempt in the fourth quarter and passed out of the post. Fields did say he was still working through some inconsistencies with his elbow during training camp.
In his 4 minutes of action, Stone looked better than Buycks, if only because he could provide some resistance to Barea. Stone is a big point guard that easily has the size to guard wing players and has the quickness to give a small guard like Barea problems. Stone is definitely an interesting prospect. Morais got in this game at the end as did Daye and eventually Wright, but there wasn’t much to take away from this limited exposure as the teams only scored 1 point between them over the final 3 minutes.
Both teams had lots to take away from this game. Minnesota had nice performances from their big men and their guards. The only real concern was that Kevin Martin exited the game early for precautionary reasons due to a sore right Achilles. Toronto had solid games from their starters and key rotation players, but still has questions marks about whether Ross can be consistent, if Fields arm is really getting better and how long Buycks will play like a rookie. Stone possibly deserves a better look than just 4 minutes at the end of a game.