Tonight, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine shot a combined 30/55 for 71 points.
On a more experienced team, or even just a deeper team, your best players unanimously shooting over 50 percent and getting 17+ points will get you the win. But when you allow your opponent to get to the free throw line 33 times, shoot 44 percent from deep (with 12 makes), and score 124 points, big nights from your team’s “Big 3” isn’t as impactful.
This wasn’t a night where the Wolves blew it in the 3rd quarter, though you wouldn’t have known it by the television broadcast rhetoric. This wasn’t a night where the Wolves fell into the spell of some random opposing role player killing them, though the Raptors’ big 3 (aka the top 3 scorers: Lowry, DeRozan and Jonas) was exemplary in their own right. The Wolves lost this game because they didn’t play good defense, both on the perimeter and on the interior.
They have the fifth worst defensive rating in the league, and that was exposed tonight. You can’t beat the Raptors when the stat lines look like this.
Jonas shot the ball brilliantly and had excellent shot selection. Same with Lowry. While DeRozan didn’t shoot well from the field, over a third of the Raptors’ 33 free throw attempts came from him, and he only missed one of them.
To be clear, the game seemed like it was going to be close, up until about halfway to go in the fourth quarter. A big three by Wiggins was the last point where the Wolves looked like they’d have a chance to claw back in and get the win. A huge run gave the Raptors a relatively easy win, and a big point deficit.
The Wolves bench gave 22 points, and actually shot the ball relatively well. Kris Dunn had one of his better halves in the first, but couldn’t do much in the second. The down point for Dunn came when gave up a four-point play to Kyle Lowry, after making the mistake of going under the screen. On paper, he appeared higher efficiency than Ricky Rubio, who was a -14, had 5 fouls, and only 3 assists. But tonight was another example of Rubio’s ability to keep the ball moving keeping him a factor in the game.
This wasn’t a case of the Wolves’ best players not playing well. Not offensively, anyway. This also wasn’t the case where those same players wouldn’t have some highlight plays.
If you only watched the Wolves offensively, you would have thought they would have won. But bad transition defense, bad half court defense…basically bad defense in general gave this game away for the Wolves. The now 15-7 Raptors have shown the ability to adjust to the strength to the team they’re playing. Better than most.
Tonight, they figured out how to score on the Wolves, and did it in bunches. The Wolves kept it a game, but they let it slip away, again.