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No Time Like The Present In Raptors Win Over Wolves

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Mike Ulmer - Raptors.com
February 4, 2011

If not now, when.

If not us, who?

For the Toronto Raptors, the answer to those questions for the first time in 24 days is as follows: Now and us.

The Raptors beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-100 at Air Canada Centre, Friday, easing by a team that had been delivering a nine per cent winning percentage on the road. That’s nine as in a half Gretzky.

It turns out us is Andrea Bargnani who scored 30 points and point guard Jose Calderon who recorded 19 assists to tie the team record he shared with Damon Stoudamire.

Us is Amir Johnson scoring 19 points on 10 shots, hauling in a dozen boards and even adding half a dozen assists.

“Amir was unbelievable,” said Raptors’ coach Jay Triano. “That was almost the perfect line (in the boxscore) for a power forward.”

Us is a 20-point night for DeMar DeRozan and 54 minutes on the floor for Ed Davis, Trey Johnson (a much needed 10 points) and Julian Wright.

Some of us aren’t really well known.

The Raptors were nearly at the point of throwing empty uniforms unto the court. Linas Kleisa, you may have heard, is gone for a year or so. Reggie Evans’ gimpy foot, Leandro Barbosa’s bad hamstring and Jerryd Bayless sprained knee left Triano to build a log cabin with toothpicks and spit.

The win stopped the Raptors losing streak at 13 games. It was the second-longest losing streak in team history.

Now, the Timberwolves entered the game at 11-37. The Raps, meanwhile, dragged a 13-37 record into the contest but somebody had to win the damned thing. When you are a young team decimated by injury, it can take a herculean effort just to avoid infamy.

Calderon played 37:32 and was asked if he was playing inside the zone.

“It did feel like slow motion,” he said. “I couldn’t make a shot. I tried to pass the ball a little more than usual.”

Calderon hit just two of seven attempts but skittered inside the Wolves defence at will.

“Jose was unbelievable,” said Bargnani. “He would collapse the defence and then always find the open man.”

The Raptors shot 54 per cent from the field and limited Wolves star Kevin Love to 20 points and11 attempts, but the Raptors struggled to defend the perimeter. The visitors hit 12 of 30 from distance. The Raptors only attempted 11 three-point shots and harvested nine points.

“If we could take one thing it would be to take away the three,” Triano said. “That’s what kept them in the game.”

The Wolves got to within two points with six minutes left, but Bargnani hit a three to put the Raps up by six. Things took care of themselves nicely after that. Despite giving up some length, the Raptors outscored Minnesota 50-38 in the paint and that speaks more to desire than anything else.

Bargnani was coming off two consecutive 12-point nights while DeRozan had averaged just 11 points over his last four games.

“You’ve got to keep shooting,” Bargnani said, repeating the shooter’s creed. “Even if you are cold for three or four games, you’ve got to keep shooting.”

True to his nature, Triano was pleased; humble but pleased.

“Our focus has not been on what has happened in the past, it’s been on the game at hand,” Triano said. “These guys care and they work hard in practice and like I’ve been saying all along, I want to get a win for all the hard work they have done.”

True enough. The only pertinent number is one. One win in as many tries.