This has been unfamiliar territory for the Toronto Raptors since the new year. The Raptors are now losers of two straight after a 120-90 letdown versus the New Orleans Pelicans. Since January, the Raptors have only found themselves on a two-game slide twice. This short losing streak has just highlighted the flaws that the Raptors have been battling all season.
Last game, the Raptors combined for a season-low eight assists, which shouldn’t come as a shocker considering that Gary Trent Jr, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes cumulatively shot 5-30 from the field. No one expects them to be perfect, but the margin for error is slim when there isn’t much scoring to fall back on with the bench. Another thing highlighted in these last two games was the inability to guard skilled big men.
While it should be expected that the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic would have a big game versus any team he plays, it stung a little more watching a former fan favorite, Jonas Valanciunas, and Jaxson Hayes dominate the Raptors on the inside. There’s no rest for the weary either as the Raptors look to bounce back from the two-game slide on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves, featuring All-Star center Karl Anthony Towns.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8:00 PM ET
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
Minnesota — D’Angelo Russell, Patrick Beverly, Anthony Edwards, Jarred Vanderbilt, Karl-Anthony Towns
Toronto — Fred VanVleet (knee– questionable)
Minnesota — McKinley Wright IV (elbow – out)
Not the same ol’ Timberwolves
The Timberwolves have been a pleasant surprise this season; they are on track to make the playoff, a rare occurrence as they have only had one postseason appearance since the 2004-2005 season. Most of the credit has to go to their two young stars in Anthony Edwards and All-Star Karl- Anthony Towns. They currently sit at 31-27 (16-10 at home) and are 7-3 within their last ten games.
Over that 10-game streak, they also have the top-ranked offense rating at 121.8, with a bottom-five defensive rating of 117.2. The trio of Russell (19.1 PPG), Towns (24.1 PPG), and Edwards (22.4 PPG) are also one of the highest-scoring trios in the league. The Raps will have their hands full containing this red-hot Timberwolves offense. However, there should be faith that the Raptors will be able to hang with the Wolves as they have the 10th ranked offense and 10th ranked defense over the same span.
Of course, the key player of the night will be Karl-Anthony Towns, The Raptors have had trouble all season guarding skilled big men, and this will be their first look at Towns to start the two-game season series. Towns has averaged 19.8 PPG, 10 RPG, and 2.6 APG in 11 career games versus the Raptors.
Thaddeus Young first game thoughts
Thaddeus Young was a player that I was hoping the Raptors would acquire at the deadline because I felt he could come at a cheap cost while providing steady production for a bench that desperately needed that. While many weren’t impressed by the trade that brought Young to Toronto, he still can play a massive role for the Raptors in the home stretch of the season.
In his first game with the team, Thad played sparingly, only 12 minutes total, and he produced a stat line of four points, four rebounds, and one assist. But what really should have caught everyone’s attention is the quick and decisive passes on offense and switching and hustle on defense that Thad brought to the court. No one should be expecting Thaddeus to come off the bench and set the world on fire, keep in mind since 2022 started, this is only the fourth game he has played in!
But the Raptors have big plans to use Thad in the back half of the season. The Raptors are looking like they are doubling down on the positionless basketball scheme that they have been running all season. Following his debut, Thad spoke about what the Raptors expect from him, saying, “I think the biggest hardest part is I’m learning multiple positions, as opposed to one or two positions. I’m learning anywhere from one on down to the five now because all the pieces are interchangeable on the court.” So as he works himself back into game shape, we should expect to see him on the court plenty at multiple positions.
Siakam snubbed again
How many times is Siakam going to be disrespected! First, he wasn’t selected as an All-Star Reserve, and then he wasn’t chosen as an injury replacement for Kevin Durant; instead, LaMelo Ball got the nod, and now with James Harden sitting out of the All-Star weekend festivities, Siakam is once again passed up by Jarret Allen.
While it’s understandable that one of the hometown stars for the game would get the nod, it’s ridiculous that Siakam is now relying on a third injury replacement for a chance to be recognized as an All-star this season. The numbers should speak for themselves Siakam has taken his game to another level this season, especially in February.
So far this month, Siakam is averaging 26 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game, and five assists while shooting 40% from three on 3.8 attempts. These numbers are definitely All-Star worthy, and it’s looking like Siakam might get another shot at being selected since Zach Lavine’s availability is in question. For Eastern Conference All-star injury replacements, maybe third time’s the charm.