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Five Thoughts on Last Night: Wolves 115, Raptors 109

The Toronto Raptors’ inability to secure defensive rebounds came back to haunt them against the Minnesota Timberwolves last night. Here are five thoughts on the Wolves’ 115-109 victory. 

Toronto Raptors v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors looked like they might catch a break Saturday night in Minnesota, with noted Raptor Killer Jimmy Butler sidelined with a knee injury. But a sloppy offensive second half and another poor rebounding performance did them in.

Defensive Rebounding is Officially A Problem

On the first Timberwolves possession, Nemanja Bjelica grabbed an offensive rebound off an Andrew Wiggins miss and scored. If you watched Friday’s Raptors-Spurs game you’d know it was a familiar sight. And the game ended the same way: trailing by 3 with 30 seconds left, the Raptors played excellent defense, forcing a long jump shot. DeMar DeRozan declined to box out Wiggins, who easily secured the rebound, and the Raptors were forced to foul. That was pretty much your ballgame.

That’s 32 offensive rebounds given up in the last two games, and 42 second chance points.

The scouting reports will now be identifying this as a weak point: that the Raptors are a poor defensive rebounding team and can be taken advantage of on the glass. It’s going to be a problem the rest of the way unless they fix it. Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby in particular have got to give Jonas Valanciunas some help.

It was a Vintage Kyle Lowry Performance

Kyle Lowry went off against the Wolves. Whether it was him wanting to stick it to Minnesota fans (whose football team is playing his today) or wanting to stick it to the Timberwolves organization (for throwing money at Jeff Teague instead of him last summer) or wanting to stick it to Jeff Teague for being overpaid... it was a damn treat to watch.

He finished with 40 points on 14-25 shooting (6-of-10 from 3-point range) with 5 boards and 5 assists. There isn’t much that’s more fun to watch as a Raptors fan than a classic Kyle Lowry Over Everything game.

The Second Half Officiating was... Curious.

I know the Raptors’ sloppy offense didn’t earn them many free throws after halftime, but I’m also not sure that the Timberwolves deserved the whistles they got in the second half either. The 29 free throws Minnesota shot in the second half were 8 more than the Raptors shot the entire game.

At one point, after Karl-Anthony Towns was fouled when it could easily have been called an offensive foul—the second time that had happened—Jack Armstrong said it was a reputation thing, with Towns’ name carrying the respect that earns the call.

And I thought to myself: what exactly has Towns done to earn that kind of respect from officials? Is it the career .430 winning percentage? The zero playoff games? The 20 minutes of defense he’s played his entire career?

It also doesn’t explain how an offensive foul was given to DeMar DeRozan when he made contact with someone called “Marcus Georges-Deng” with 25 seconds to go. Has “Georges-Deng” has earned more respect from the officials than DeMar DeRozan? I’m not buying that.

What did Happen to the Raptors Offense in the Third Quarter?

For some reason, a Raptors offense that had been moving the ball well in the first half went to sleep in the second. Given that it was the second night of a back-to-back (and the Spurs game was a grinder), fatigue may have been an issue. Or perhaps it was simply that the Wolves—a good defensive team under Tom Thibodeau—woke up. They seemed to smother the Raptors any time a guard tried to turn corner on the perimeter.

Whatever the case, the Raptors couldn’t get anything going in the half-court and ended up chucking several threes and long twos with the shot clock winding down and very little movement. On one play in the second, Kyle Lowry got a switch on Taj Gibson, and dribbled for 5 seconds trying to get the angle, but Taj is a good defender—and the other four Raptors didn’t move the entire time. Lowry was forced into a heave.

Toronto went 15-for-39 after halftime after shooting 54.5% in the first half.

Andrew Wiggins Was Out of His Mind in the First Half

Wiggins played sensational ball in the first half, keeping his team in it when Towns was in foul trouble. He was hitting shots from all over and posterized poor Jakob Poeltl twice.

He cooled off in the second while Towns was marching in his parade to the free throw line, but Wiggins still managed to hit a huge three with 2:25 left after the Raptors had taken back the lead.

Wiggins has taken a lot of flak for not developing as much or as quickly as expected, but, he’s still just 22, has suffered through three losing seasons with a traditionally dysfunctional organization and spent two years with... perhaps not the greatest coaching? I think there’s still time for Wiggins.

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It’s a tough loss for the Raptors, as the win was right there for the taking, especially with Butler out. But some poor offensive execution, a poor rebounding effort and a tough whistle were too much to overcome. Still, with three days off and a game against one of the league’s worst teams (Atlanta) coming up, the Raptors are at least in good position to recover.