Raptors 114, Timberwolves 105: Grinding it Out


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 .

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4 Responsesso far.

  1. Lenny Henson says:

    mitchell’s decisions for the starting line up baffle me. What is the point of starting prince at this point?? it wrecks the groove of the team. I truly hope mitchell’s days are coming to an end.

  2. pyrrol says:

    Funny how all the stats for our guys dropped off a cliff in the second half… That could mean we were tired (right after the all star break, with young legs) or that our coaching staff didn’t adjust while the other team did. Make no mistake, the Wolves are very much in early learning mode on how to keep their cool in crunch time and play competently enough to compete to the end against good teams. That said, the night and day aspect from the moment they leave the locker room to begin the second half suggests a lack of adjustments.

    In the second half, the Wolves defense got killed on simple, but well crafted action. We got cartoonishly pretzeled over basic plays and competent action. On offense, we looked like we lacked any ability to run plays or even the most simple action, like a basic dump off a screen or pick and roll. Jim Pete was happy to rant about Rubio passing up a layup rather than point out that for the last ten minutes of the game it looked like we ran no plays.

    I’m starting to play close attention during this waffle period how we do in LaVine starting games, and Prince starting games. There are a million other factors at play, so it’s never going to be clear, but we have so far not looked as good without LaVine starting. He also looks much less good when not starting, and we just need him doing stuff to help us at this point. Tonight, even though LaVine had to come in early and was placed with the starters often and had Tyus to handle the back up point, he still looked out of place as did our team generally much of the game. That little bit makes a big difference—it changes the environmental context of the players in a domino effect way I find strange, but can’t ignore.

    Wiggins needs to stop jumping and finishing so weak. He kind of holds the ball above his head in the paint and makes a weak jump toward the hoop–in this method, the ball easily gets knocked away and he’s finishing at a lower elevation. It’s also just a bit awkward–it’s not quite a lay in, but a short shot without a real shooting motion, sort of like a flat footed, two handed statue of liberty non-dunk. Wiggins has the physical tools to take it in more strong and varied ways to the hole.

    Deing played very well and helped keep us fighting. If he keeps being consistent at this level, he’ll be a dream come true. Tyus looked pretty good. I’ve been a resident Jones skeptic, but that’s not to say I’m not cheering for him. He’s from Apple Valley! And I like his game–smart, good passing, calm, can shoot, we’ll see his floater more in the future… He’s slower than Rubio and like 6 feet, with what appears to the eye to not be a very long build. That holds him back. He had troubles on D, but he also showed he’s been watching Rubio and used his smarts to makes some defensive plays. Play in and play out, he’s pretty bad on that side, though. On offense he looks better and can run and O in a way that LaVine couldn’t to this point already. Sam wisely, it being the case he’s decided to use Tyus as the back up point and no LaVine (GOOD!) or Miller there, has limited Tyus’s minutes some while he gets how he can keep pace in the NBA figured. But he looked like a decent back up point and has impressed me thus far.

  3. WinterWolf says:

    2 comments on the wolves. 1) several years ago, it was said that George Karl had a 10-10-10 rule with melo. I wonder if SMitch could do something similar with Wigs. 10 paint shots and 10 free throws then 10 shots of his choice. 2) we have to work so hard on offense to get looks that are not great. I wonder if our team just gets tired of running away from the basket to get the ball 20′ away with few options and no clock left. I know SMitch has been roundly criticized– some fair some less– but we have to find a way to get the same easier baskets our opponents appear to get. 3) I wonder if the work we have to do on offense tires our already vulnerable defense. This may explain late game swoons, why defense was so much better in the beginning of the season and why we look so inconsistent. A few thoughts anyway.

  4. Nick Giancola says:

    Despite the good things Ricky Rubio brings to the court, the Wolves need to upgrade at the point guard position. They’ll never get to the upper echelon of the Western Division with Ricky at point guard.

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