MINNEAPOLIS -- What the Raptors did last night in their breezy 105-82 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center wasn't all that impressive. It most definitely wasn't exciting.
But boy, was it efficient.
Efficiency, frequently overlooked by fans, is a holy grail to most NBA coaches because it almost always means
- few mistakes made;
- crafty game plans followed, and
- whole team involvement.
That's what the Raptors put together, nearly start to finish, top to bottom, in winning for the eighth time in 12 games and boosting head coach Sam Mitchell's personal record to 7-for-7 against the franchise for which he played 10 seasons.
Point guard Jose Calderon, drawing raves lately for a heady assist-to-turnover ratio in excess of 5.00, stayed right on track with 10 assists and two turnovers. He nearly was flawless in barely 25 minutes, sitting out the fourth quarter entirely after shooting 4-of-4 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line for 15 points.
Yet right behind him was T.J. Ford, dishing 13 assists with just one turnover in about 22 minutes. Overall, the Raptors amassed 31 assists on their 41 field goals, their attack humming at a 50.6% clip overall. They outrebounded Minnesota, poked away more turnovers and held the Timberwolves to 41% shooting.
Awfully ... efficient.
"We've just got to continue to do that. You can never not pass the ball," Mitchell said.
Up 51-47 at halftime after squandering a double-digit lead, the Raptors (27-22) opened the third quarter with a 12-2 run.
There would be no blown opportunity, a la the loss on Friday to the Los Angeles Clippers; in this one, nine minutes in, Toronto had scored 24 points in the quarter, Wolves forward Al Jefferson had eight and the rest of Minnesota's crew managed only two.
The Timberwolves (10-39) had entered the game spooked by the Raptors' accuracy from three-point range (42.1% when the night began). But they were undone by what happened inside the arc: Toronto's shooters hit 28 of their first 49 two-pointers, opening an 86-67 lead with 7:25 remaining.
Calderon wound up with his 19th double-double of the season, while he and Ford have combined for 57 assists to eight turnovers in the three games since Ford returned from his 24-game layoff because of a stinger. Andrea Bargnani, with 16 points, led five Raptors scorers in double figures.
"That's what we're used to," Raptors forward Chris Bosh said of his team's point guards. "We're used to those guys playing, they're fast-break point guards who can make shots and make plays, and they make everybody better. We were missing that when T.J. was out, but it's back to home for us."
Bosh said his team was determined not to repeat its gaffes from Friday, and focused on leaving the halftime locker room with a strong effort.
"I'm always concerned with that," the Raptors' all-star forward said. "I always want us to come in and bury teams when we have a chance. We refocused in the second half. We came in and talked about it, and we saw what we could do better."
While Toronto was offering up classic team basketball, the other guys were putting the "I" in Minnesota.
"This was the most selfish effort in a while," Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said. "We had no concentration on the defensive end."
The Timberwolves passed for 18 assists against their 16 turnovers. Jefferson led with a low-impact 18 points and nine boards.