Raptors cruise past Timberwolves
By Ryan Wolstat, QMI Agency
|Minnesota Timberwolves guard Brandon Roy (left) grabs a loose ball in front of Raptors' Alan Anderson and DeMar DeRozan last night in Toronto. (REUTERS)
The name of the game for the Raptors this season is learning how to close games.
After outplaying Indiana and Brooklyn for large parts of the first two games, yet returning to Toronto 0-2, the Raptors figured it out on Sunday, beating Minnesota 105-86 thanks to Kyle Lowry and Alan Anderson.
Lowry was a human buzz-saw, leading a Toronto defence that pressured Minnesota into 24 turnovers, including 16 in the first half.
Lowry only missed two shots in compiling a 22-point, seven-rebound, five-assist, three-steal evening.
Meanwhile, Anderson, a Minnesota native who played all over the world before finding his way back to the NBA last season, was superb, chipping in 18 points.
DeRozan matched Lowry’s game-high 22 points and added seven rebounds.
Playing on a back-to-back against the well-rested Wolves didn’t hurt the Raptors much early. While Toronto’s offence laboured, the defence was good enough.
The intense pressure at times resulted in bad, or too slow rotations — which gave head coach Dwane Casey fits — but it also completely threw the visitors off-kilter, though Minnesota’s 56.3% field goal percentage through two helped offset all of the turnovers .
DeRozan continues to shake off a bad season-opener. DeRozan again did yeoman’s work on the boards and his defence looks considerably improved compared to last season.
Lowry and DeRozan were the primary reasons why the Raptors led by nine entering the break.
Lowry pumped in nine points in the second quarter and 15 in the opening half along with a couple of steals, frustrating the Wolves so much that Luke Ridnour picked up a technical foul after being harassed by the Villanova product.
After scoring eight points in the first half, Anderson opened the fourth by finding Landry Fields for a massive cram and then nailed an important three a few minutes later, to stretch Toronto’s biggest lead to that point to 12.
Though Fields has not found his offence, the free agent signing played well defensively, cut across the floor efficiently, found open teammates and helped out on the boards.
The defensive breakdowns were the major issue, as well as the inability of rookie Jonas Valanciunas to stop Minnesota’s man-mountain, Nikola Pekovic, who had 15.
The bulky Pekovic was a load down low and overpowered Valanciunas.
The undermanned Wolves battled back, but trailed by six entering the fourth and got buried by a combination of Toronto starters and reserves. For some reason, the Wolves went away from Andrei Kirilenko, who dominated the Raptors all over the court in the first half.
The Raptors will try to get back to .500 on Tuesday in Oklahoma City in the opener of another back-to-back, which will conclude Wednesday in Dallas.