Game Preview: Raptors vs. Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves (32-21) @ Toronto Raptors (33-15)
When: Tuesday, January 30th, 7:30 P.M. ET
Where: Air Canada Centre
Broadcast info: TSN4, SN590
The Raptors saw the Timberwolves on their last road trip where a 40-point effort from Kyle Lowry was wasted in a disappointing 115-109 loss. Though the Raptors led throughout the first half, their defence faltered in the second, just as Minnesota was heating up. While Lowry was spectacular for Toronto, Andrew Wiggins kept the Wolves close with 22 first-half points, finishing with 29 to lead a Minnesota team that attempted 42 free throws in the game. In addition to Lowry's 40 points, DeMar DeRozan added 20 points and five assists in the loss while Karl-Anthony Towns added 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolves.
LEADING INTO TONIGHT'S GAME
Injury report: For Toronto, the injury report is clear. Minnesota's injury report was also clear. The Timberwolves come to Toronto straight from Atlanta, where they dropped a close 105-100 decision to the Hawks on Monday night.
All-Star coaching staff: Thanks to Toronto's victory against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, the Raptors coaching staff will be headed to L.A. to coach Team LeBron in the All-Star Game next month. Casey is the first coach in franchise history to earn the honour. The team celebrated his accomplishment following Sunday's game by spraying him with water in the locker room before he met with the media for his post-game availability.
The one that got away: The Raptors were not pleased with their second-half effort in their previous loss against the Timberwolves. Tuesday's game won't be any easier, with Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford back in the lineup. The duo both missed Minnesota's win against the Raptors. Another thing Raptors head coach Dwane Casey brought up ahead of Tuesday's game: Andrew Wiggins playing in front of a hometown crowd. "I love Wiggins but I think he gets excited about playing Toronto," Casey said. "We've gotta understand that. He does get excited and motivated to play against us."
Career weekend: It was another huge weekend for Fred VanVleet. The second-year man led the way in Toronto's victory against the Lakers, scoring a career-high 25 points in 20 minutes off the bench. He shot 9-for-13 from the floor, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 4-for-4 from the free throw line, while adding two rebounds, four assists and two steals, without a turnover. After the game, Dwane Casey had high praise for VanVleet. "He has all my respect," Casey said. "He's a kid, undrafted, he comes in and makes our team and he's an important part of what we do."
Passing the rock: The Raptors are now 27-8 this season when recording 20+ assists in a game. Through 48 games, they have already surpassed last season's total of 34 games with 20+ assists. The bulk of Toronto's assists come from the backcourt as Kyle Lowry leads the team with 6.6 assists per game and DeMar DeRozan averaging a career-high 5.1 assists per game.
Block city: Serge Ibaka had 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks against the Lakers. Ibaka is averaging 1.47 blocks per contest, ranking him 10th in the NBA. He's had eight games with 3+ blocks already and the team is a perfect 6-0 when he scores 20+ points. Like Jonas Valanciunas, Ibaka has gotten off to a strong start in 2018, averaging 11.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.62 blocks per game in January.