The Toronto Raptors have built a reputation the past 2 1/2 years, winning games in the Eastern Conference with a certain level of toughness and grit. They’ve done it with different lineup combinations, but have made a collective living out of grinding out victories and getting their opponents tired.
This play in the third quarter was a prime example. A fresh Karl-Anthony Towns has the legs to box out and get this rebound. On this play, the Wolves’ interior makes Patrick Patterson look like the Energizer Bunny.
The Wolves were able to keep it a game for a good portion of tonight’s game, but the Raptors played harder for longer. The All Star break wasn’t too long ago, but the Wolves looked tired at the end of tonight’s game, and that has a lot to do with who they were playing against.
The Wolves’ hot early start had much to do with Andrew Wiggins. Unbeknownst by most and freakishly underreported, Wiggins is actually from the city of Toronto, and has spent the majority of his life there.
But tonight for the Wolves, his hot start propelled the Wolves to their early lead. Wigs is at his best when he’s taking the ball to the rim (while holding onto the ball, of course), and that’s what he did early on tonight. When Wiggins is really on is when he is hitting from deep, which happened tonight as he hit his first two long balls.
That said, the Wolves gave up a big 1st quarter lead, and were forced to trade runs to make it a game again. This transpired, more or less, for the remainder of the game.
He cooled off in the second half, but the Wolves were able to hold on and share runs with the Raps.
In the second half, he completely fell off. His 7/9 first half turned into an 9/19 shooting night overall. A good shooting night from Gorgui Dieng, great passing night from Ricky Rubio, and decent point guard relief from Tyus Jones were nice, but the Raptors’ recent success(all without DeMarre Carroll) was on display again tonight.
DeMar DeRozan, a guy often viewed as what Wiggins could one day become (this isn’t a bad thing, for the record, but that’s a story for another day), hit an uncommon pair of late three-pointers to put the game away for the Raptors. That said, that wasn’t how the game was lost for the Wolves.
An inbounds pass in the final minutes, clearly intended for Wiggins, was tipped by Gorgui Dieng and sent out of bounds. Wiggins, Towns and LaVine all struggled to get any shots to find the hoop late in the game, despite opportunities that they’ve made in the past.
Grinding out wins against good teams. This is somehting that young teams are going to have to figure out. There’s no telling whether it will happen this season, or even next season. Tonight’s game is an example of a young team not used to playing a team this experienced, and this good at winning tough games.
This isn’t to make an excuse for the Wolves, but it is to say games like these are absolutely of the “learning experience variety”. They played well enough that they can feel good going into Saturday’s game in New Orleans, but they should also feel frustrated enough to study up in the film room and on the practice floor in the coming days.
Wiggins didn’t have a good second half. Karl-Anthony Towns only had 6 rebounds. After a 10 assist first half, Ricky Rubio finished with just 12. The Wolves got caught and were outed against a better team tonight. It’s happened before, and you bet it’ll happen again. As long as they players know that that’s okay, it should be easy to move on .