Birthday bash

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

The Timberwolves really have gone to the dogs.

The once-proud Minnesota franchise has hit bottom this season, and last night's game against the Raptors was no exception.

Chris Bosh celebrated his 22nd birthday by recording his 32nd double-double of the season, as the Raptors jumped to a huge lead in the first quarter and cruised to a 97-77 victory -- a rare laugher for the home side at the Air Canada Centre.

The victory improved Toronto's record to 26-43, while the T-Wolves fell to 28-41. Toronto has won five of their past seven. The major difference was energy and defence.

Minnesota looked lethargic after playing Thursday night in New Jersey while the Raps played unusually well on defence. Bosh was sensational, reaching double-double status one minute into the second half.

The big Texan finished the game with 17 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks, out-playing one of the NBA's premier power forwards Kevin Garnett, who managed 12 rebounds and 15 points. The Raps, who threw a zone defence at Minnesota, smothered Garnett with a double-team all night.

"We never game them any second shots, we never gave them a chance to really make a run at us," head coach Sam Mitchell said. "It's not that we shot the ball so well (41%). It's just that our defence was much better and we got to the shooters, contested shots and when (Minnesota) guys drove, we got in front of them."

Bosh saluted the 17,493 on hand with a wave after a huge dunk to put Toronto ahead 73-54 in the third quarter, after taking a pass under the basket from rookie Charlie Villanueva.

"I just appreciate the battle we had," Bosh said of Garnett.

"It was a lot of fun, it was a high intensity game. I was trying to stop him, he was trying to stop me. We both tried to rebound the ball and play defence, too. All in all, it was a great competition."

KUDOS TO SOW

Two other Toronto starters, Morris Peterson and Mike James, also played well, scoring 21 and 18 points respectively.

But Mitchell also tipped his hat to little-used centre Pape Sow. Garnett found himself at the centre of some controversy again. Last season, he went after Matt Bonner after the Red Rocket knocked him to the floor with a hard foul. Last night, Sow picked up a technical when he gave Garnett a push after the two went up for rebound. Sow then had to be pulled away from Garnett by Bosh and James. The quiet African finished with eight hard-earned points and six boards.

Bonner came off the bench to start the second quarter and nailed some key baskets, including a second-effort layup, which resulted in a foul and a three-point play to put Toronto up 26-10. On the next possession he hit a three and then blocked a Ricky Davis shot.

He finished with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, his first double-double.

The Raps jumped into a 24-8 lead after one quarter -- a team record for fewest points by an opponent in the the first quarter, and also a low for Minnesota.

REPORT CARD

C+ Offence: The Raps played better -- for once -- on defence than offence, shooting a mere 41%. They did control the boards though, pulling in 53 to Minnesota's 34.

B Defence: The Raps did a fine job playing help-defence against Kevin Garnett, and were quick to challenge jump shots, something coach Sam Mitchell stressed to the team before the game. The T-Wolves shot 40%.


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