Game Preview: Raptors at Timberwolves
The Toronto Raptors are looking for their third consecutive win when they take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota. The Raptors are coming off a back-to-back where the team collected wins against the Nets in Brooklyn and the Clippers in Toronto. Minnesota is on a three-game losing streak with its most recent loss coming on a 115-113 decision against the Miami Heat. The loss against the Heat was the second game for the Timberwolves since learning they'd be without rising star Zach LaVine for the rest of the season because of a torn ACL injury.
Tip-off: 8 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: SN1/ TSN1050
The Raptors have been dealing with a flurry of injuries for the previous month. In Sunday's victory against the Los Angeles Clippers, the team was thrilled to have All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan return to the floor. DeRozan had missed seven of the previous eight games with a sprained ankle and he wasted little time getting back to business, scoring a game-high 31 points in his return.
After the game, DeRozan was asked how he felt in his first game back.
""It felt great to be back out there, to be with my guys, pulling out a victory, especially at home," DeRozan said. "I didn't have no problem, no pain, no nothing. I just got a little winded the last minute or two. It feels good."
After missing four games, DeRozan returned to the floor in Toronto's loss to the Orlando Magic on Jan. 29 before missing the following three games because of the same ankle bothering him. Although he certainly didn't want to be out of commission for those seven games, DeRozan did gain something from his time spent on the sideline, not in uniform.
"Extra motivation for me, honestly" he said. "Sitting out, you kind of regain a certain hunger that you could lose track of when you're out there playing. It gives you that hunger all over again to get back out there, to do what you were doing, but even at a higher level."
Patterson working his way back
While DeMar DeRozan made his return on Monday, Patrick Patterson did not. After missing 10 games in January with a sore left knee, Patterson has missed the previous two games as well. Prior to Monday's contest against the Clippers, Dwane Casey revealed that Patterson had been kneed in that same knee in Toronto's loss to Boston a week ago and was working his way back into the lineup. Although Patterson's status for Wednesday's match up is not known, DeRozan is anxious to get his teammate back, believing it will help many of the issues the team has had in his absence.
"It will solve everything," DeRozan said. "The last couple years we always dealt with injuries, we always figured out how to fight through it. But it sucks not having your full team, especially key guys like that. Once we get Pat back, guys will get some rest at the end of the week. Once the all-star break comes, hopefully we can take off running at the right time."
Powell playing his part
When DeMar DeRozan was out with a sprained ankle, Norman Powell was starting in his place. With DeRozan returning to the court on Monday, Powell didn't hit the floor until the fourth quarter, playing the final 12 minutes. Of the game Depending on the night, the available players for the Raptors, and the opponent the team is facing, Powell's role has fluctuated. Despite being in just his second season, the sophomore has found a way to be ready when his name is called, whenever that may be.
"Maturity," Casey said. "He's a mature young man and he understands his role. That's the good thing about our team, everybody is understanding, accepting their role."
DeRozan complimented his younger teammate on the approach he's taken this year.
It's great when you have a young player that has that type of mentality, just ready at all costs," DeRozan said. "That's what you call a true professional. Especially being his second year in the league, it's going to go a long way for him. Guys like that, their opportunity will definitely come. He's humble with it and he's always ready."
Coming to the arena and not knowing whether you'll be playing 30 minutes or 10 can be difficult for players to get used to. Powell's ability to be ready for anything has proven to be an asset for the Raptors this season.
"It's a lot more difficult [than it looks]" DeRozan said. "But he take it like a champ, and there's never a time he's not ready and not aggressive.