GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Raptors | March 9, 2014
Final: That's a wrap, folks. Really tough loss for the Timberwolves as they fall 111-104 to the Raptors. This was a crushing loss for their playoff chances, as they head back to .500 with 20 games to play. Love finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Martin had 20 points, Pekovic and Brewer had 17. Lowry had 20 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. More to come tonight on Timberwolves.com so stay tuned. TOR 111, MIN 104
Q4 55.3: DeRozan and Love trade 3-pointers, Wolves trail by seven. TOR 104, MIN 97
Q4 1:31: It's crunchtime here at Target Center. The Wolves trail by seven with 1:31 to play and have the starting five on the floor. Toronto ball. Here we go. TOR 191, MIN 94
Q4 4:01: Shabazz can flat out score, guys. He's got the scorer's touch, and it's great seeing him make the most of his opportunities. He followed up a little floater on the baseline drive with a monster two-handed jam. The problem is Toronto keeps scoring, and when they score quite frequently they end up with a three-point play or a 3-pointer. They're headed to the line again for an and-1 after this timeout already up five. Wolves are going with Rubio, Muhammad, Brewer, Love and Pek. TOR 98, MIN 93
Q4 6:23: Interesting situation here. The Wolves had to take Love out for a breather early on in the fourth, and while he was gone Budinger and Shabazz both stepped in and had productive minutes. Pek was also on the floor during that timeframe. How will the Wolves approach the next six minutes? Love has to be out there, of course, but will Pek get any more minutes? He's at 28 already. But with Pek and Love on the court, the Wolves present themselves their best chance. Toronto is shooting 54 percent from 3-point range tonight, which is causing some serious problems for Minnesota. TOR 93, MIN 87
End Q3: Alright folks, it's crunchtime. Love didn't sit a second in that third quarter, and rightfully so. The Wolves haven't gotten a ton of production from their bench, and they need Love out there to help keep the offense rolling. He's done his part with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists through three. But the problem is the Wolves will have Pek on a minute restriction in the fourth, and they've gotten just seven points from their bench tonight. On the Raptors' side, they've got 22 bench points led by Vasquez with 10 and Novak with nine. Ross and DeRozan have 15, and Lowry has his own triple-double watch going with 14 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. TOR 83, MIN 76
Q3 3:49: The Wolves are keeping pace but Toronto is shooting 51 percent tonight and 50 percent from 3-point range. The biggest advantage is inside, where Pekovic has five offensive rebounds and Love has three. Those two have a combined 34 points and 19 rebounds tonight. That's a huge edge, and unfortunately with Pek's minute restriction he might need to sit a bit here in the second half. His minute restriction is set for 20 minutes right now coming off that ankle injury. TOR 72, MIN 69
Q3 6:32: Kevin Love, who is narrowing in on his second career triple-double, also made history tonight with his 143rd 3-pointer of the year. That gives him the team's single-season record, passing Rashad McCants' 142 in 2007-08. Congrats to him for that. Meanwhile, Toronto opened up the quarter on a 9-2 run, but Minnesota has since closed the gap and trails by two during this timeout. TOR 64, MIN 62
Halftime: The Wolves went on a 17-2 run to take a 50-48 lead after the Raptors rallied off 13 to start the quarter. Toronto answered back with five straight, and although the Wolves got the last basket of the quarter they are still trailing 53-52 at the break. That's a pretty good number, though, considering how much the Wolves fell behind early on in the second. Love is on triple-double watch with 14 points, six rebounds and eight assists. Pekovic has 13 points and eight rebounds, and Martin has 11 points. DeRozan has 13 for the Raptors, and Ross has 10. They're dominating the paint 30-8 and are leading 12-4 in second chance points. TOR 53, MIN 52
Q2 5:20: Love and Brewer re-entered the game about 3 minutes ago, and since then the Wolves have gone on a 9-0 run to cut the Raptors' lead to 46-42. Love's going to need to play a large, large portion of this game. He's feeling it, and with the way the Raptors' defense is clicking Minnesota absolutely needs him on the court at all times to keep the flow and his scoring threat rolling. We'll see if that plays out, but this is a must-win game and the Wolves need Love out there. Adelman is staying with Barea, Budinger, Brewer, Love and Pek coming out of the timeout. TOR 46, MIN 42
Q2 8:47: That escalated quickly. Toronto is on a 13-0 run to start the second quarter and all of a sudden the Wolves are down 46-33. They had Barea, Budinger, Mbah A Moute, Cunningham and Pekovic on the court, and the group went a combined 0-for-3 with three turnovers in that span while Toronto had 5-of-6 shooting to open up the quarter. TOR 46, MIN 33
End Q1: Amir Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left on the clock to tie this game up 33-33 after 1. Love has 12 points, four rebounds and three assists to lead the Wolves. Pek and K-Mart each have seven, and Rubio has four after a layup set up by Dante Cunningham drawing a pair of defenders under the basket. He hit Ricky cutting right up the lane. Terrence Ross is perfect from the field, including 2-of-2 from 3, and he's got 10 points to lead the Raptors. Johnson has nine, and DeRozan has six. Neither team has a bench point yet tonight. The Wolves do lead 18-8 in the paint and 10-2 in second-chance points. MIN 33, TOR 33
Q1 2:17: Love is starting to heat up again. He's got 10 points, four rebounds and three assists in the first 9 1/2 minutes of the game. Pek, although he went to the bench to watch his minute count, has seven points on 3-of-4 shooting. And Martin started 0-for-3 but is 2-of-3 since. Brewer had another hustle play on a Raptors inbound. He closely defended Lowry and drew the offensive foul. The Wolves need those hustle plays. They're tied right now but are showing signs of turning a little momentum right now. Also, props to the Gophers for ending the regular season with a win over Penn State. That news just blasted over my Twitter feed a second ago. MIN 26, TOR 26
Q1 5:35: Very nice hustle play just moments ago by Corey Brewer, who stepped in on a Raptors' inbound pass and picked up the steal. It led to a Pek basket inside while drawing the foul. He'll go to the line with a chance to tie the game up. Rubio also had a nice feed a couple minutes on the fast break. He was eyeing Brewer but fed a no-look pass to Love, who was trailing the play, for a layup. Great to see the fast break flowing with that type of efficiency. Toronto opened up the game shooting 4-of-6 and is still shooting 54 percent. The Wolves started out 2-of-8 and are currently 6-of-16, but they've tied this game up with a Pek free throw. MIN 15, TOR 15
Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Kevin Martin, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Kevin Love, C-Nikola Pekovic
Raptors: PG-Kyle Lowry, SG-DeMar DeRozan, SF-Terrence Ross, PF-Amir Johnson, C-Jonas Valanciunas
PREGAME 5:25 PM: Kevin Martin views Kyle Lowry as one of his close friends. The two spent time together in Houston and developed a bond there as the team's starting back court (beginning under Rick Adelman), and even though Lowry is having arguably his best year (career best 16.8 ppg and 7.7 rpg) this season in Toronto, Martin would argue he's always been this type of impact guy. Now, he's added a little veteran presence and is, in Martin's eyes, a top 10 point guard in the NBA.
"He was always good," Martin said. "He was the same player. You know, he's a little older, a little wiser with age."
The two have at least one other thing in common on the basketball court. They're both Rick Adelman players. As much as we've talked about K-Mart coming to Minnesota because of Adelman this offseason, Lowry has that same type of relationship and chemistry with his former coach. When the Rockets faced the Wolves for the first time in 2011-12—Adelman's first year in Minnesota after spending the previous four years in Houston—both Martin and Lowry came over to the Minnesota bench to hug their old coach.
Adelman views Lowry as being one of the best players he's ever coached at understanding the strengths of his teammates. He was able to get the ball to the guys who could make the right plays at the right time, call plays on the fly and keep his teammates in the game.
This season, both Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are having career years. DeRozan is averaging 22.7 points per game and made his first career All-Star team, and there's a good chance it is because the two of them have such a strong chemistry in the back court. At the very least, they're able to feed off one another.
"When he played with Chase [Budinger] or Kevin Martin or whoever he played with in Houston, he made sure they got the ball," Adelman said. "And I think he's really an intelligent player and he made sure his team is together when he's on the floor."
This season, he's putting it all together even more so than before. He was a near All-Star selection, and Raptors coach Dwane Casey said he's a guy that helps keep Toronto's motor going.
"Kyle's been an excellent leader for us," Casey said. "Doing the right things, saying the right things, being an excellent leader for us this season. He's help—he kind of gives the rest of the players the swagger, so to speak, kind of that little birdie on the guys' shoulders saying, 'You can do it, you can do it.' So he gives them that type of confidence."
PREGAME 5:05 PM: A couple quick notes here before we dig a little deeper in a few minutes: One, Patrick Patterson will not play tonight and will likely miss 7-10 days with an elbow sprain. That hurts the Raptors' depth at forward, although Toronto's biggest strength in the past two months has been its next-man-up approach and its depth across the board. Raptors coach Dwane Casey said not having Patterson hurts, but the team does have a solid group of guys that can fill in during his absence.
“Patrick’s been a big part of that, that depth at that position, you know, for that second unit,” Casey said. “The energy that he brings to the table, his shooting, his defense, his rebounding, just his overall intensity. It really adds a lot to that second unit, which his huge. But again, we still have some other quality guys. Tyler Hansbrough has played a lot of playoff games. Steve Novak is one of our best shooters. So we have different guys that can step in and give us something different.”
Also, Kevin Love needs three 3-pointers tonight to break Rashad McCant's record for most 3-pointers in a season for the Timberwolves' franchise. McCants had 142 in the 2007-08 season.
That's something that concerns Casey, especially with Patterson out.
"No, I believe it because he’s been one of the hottest players in the last month I would say since the All-Star Break of players in the league," Casey said. "Whether it’s 3-pointers, rebounding, whatever you want to do, he’s been doing it. We have our antennas up with him as everybody does since he’s been going. He’s been doing everything. We have to have a special effort, that’s another negative of losing Patrick because he gives us the quickness to defend a stretch guy like that. But we’ll have to get it from someone else."
PREGAME 4:00 PM: Welcome to Target Center, where the Timberwolves will try to pull off an incredibly big win tonight at home against the Toronto Raptors. Minnesota is a game above .500 and five games out off the playoffs in the West as we speak, and a victory over Toronto tonight would be a huge step in the right direction for this team trying to get back into the race. They're coming of an impressive bounce-back win over the Pistons on Friday, during which they performed with great energy from the beginning and really showcased the type of postseason intensity for much of the game necessary to get themselves back into the hunt.
Tonight, they'll face a Raptors team that is by no means a slouch. You might not be familiar with the Raptors franchise putting together competitive seasons, but this year they are very much a team capable of pulling off big wins at home and on the road. They're eight games over .500 and are currently the best team in the East behind Indiana and Miami.
"They’re just a good team that plays hard and physical starting with their point guard Kyle Lowry," Wolves guard Kevin Martin said. "He’s really emerged his game this year, and put him in the top 10 point guards in the league. So we have to make sure we contain him and then off guard they have DeMar [DeRozan] so they have a good back court."
The Wolves are trying to break a five-game losing streak against Toronto that is part of the Raptors' 17-1 record in their last 18 games against the Wolves. Overall, Minnesota is 12-23 lifetime against Toronto but are 9-7 overall at Target Center against the Raptors.
They'll try to tie this season series at 1-1 tonight. The Wolves lost 94-89 at Toronto on Jan. 17.
More to come on the blog. For now, here are some pregame notes to consider.