Raptors tame the Timberwolves

The two leaders of your Toronto Raptors - Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

It was sloppy, it wasn't pretty, but it was characteristic of many Raptors wins of late as the hometown heroes down the visiting Timberwolves 94-89.

This Raptors team is much more Kyle Lowry's team than it is DeMar DeRozan's.

Yes, DeMar is taking more of a leadership role in this year's iteration of the Raptors, but it's Kyle Lowry's bend-don't-break attitude that seems to be infecting this team. People may attribute a lot of that grittiness from Dwane Casey, but that hounding attitude, the ability to come back from adversity and the timely bucket all speak largely to Kyle Lowry's skills.

It's why it's almost criminal that he's not the #1 most talked about player on this team deserving an All-Star spot.

Last night, exemplified all that he does for this team. Lowry took charges, made timely shots, and was off the bench on defensive possessions encouraging his teammates.

And even in the face of some very dubious calls last night, Lowry and his Raptors simply played through the game.

Which is exactly what you wanted to see after the let down the other night. The Raptors simply bounced back into their rhythm and came out with a win that looked a lot like their other wins over the past few weeks.

They held one of the league's highest scoring offenses to a mere 89 points along with an anemic 16.7% shooting from 3 point range.

Guys like Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson have continued to show that they can contribute in meaningful ways besides putting up points on the board. Ross in particular continue to evolve into a two-way player like Mo Pete or Doug Christie. Patrick Patterson on the other hand has turned into the inside-outside two-way player we had always hoped our departed Italian project could have been.

All in all, the Raptors played the way they had to, without compromise, and forcing their opponent into their pace. It was a textbook win against one of the playoff hopefuls in the Western Conference.

Nevertheless, there are a few Raptors that I've had concerns about for the past few games, areas where our boys need to tweak to get more out of this roster.

Greivis Vasquez continues to struggle. With limited playing time, the Raptors need to see a much more consistent game from our backup point guard. While his offensive efficiency has bottomed out to career lows (32.8 FG% and 30 3PT%), he's traditionally been a pretty poor defensive option. The Raptors simply need more out of him so that Kyle Lowry doesn't burn himself out before the end of the season.

And speaking of burn outs, Amir Johnson really needs a breather. The faster Tyler Hansbrough can get back to playing basketball, the sooner hopefully Dwane Casey can find some time for Amir to take some time off. Amir played last night with guts and heart and was an important part of our win, but the Raptors need that long term and need front court anchor heal up for a bit if they hope to be competitive in the second half of the season.

While Jonas Valanciunas continues to grow, we are seeing the gaps in his game that he needs to work on. Guys like Nikola Pekovic continue out muscle him and cause him trouble. We're also seeing more and more players block his shot, which is speaking to the work that he needs to do on his conditioning.

And it's here where Kyle Lowry really showed his imprint on this team. Valanciunas has sometimes needed the whip cracked and a guiding hand at times. Kyle Lowry has more often than not, been that person. While we can say that Valanciunas needs to work on some of the physical aspects of his growth, he's become better and better at finding ways to have impact on the game in the way he boxes out, helps on defense and works hard for rebounds.

It's how Kyle Lowry is making his teammates better at every turn that deserves recognition at an event like the All-Star game.

Let's just hope some of the coaches leading the East notice him too.

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